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Our Irish Travels: Nine Nights in Early June

Our Irish Travels: Nine Nights in Early June

Jun 30th, 2019, 07:03 AM
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Our Irish Travels: Nine Nights in Early June

In early June 2019, DH (M) and I spent a wonderful 9 nights in Ireland, beginning and ending in Dublin from which we drove a counter-clockwise loop. I always start my Trip Reports with some background and personal info for some context and “reasoning” behind our travel choices.

Personal profiles: We are in our early-60’s and in good health if sometimes a little shakier on our pins than in the past. Over the last 15 years, we have made numerous international trips, so we know how to prepare, plan itineraries, and pack for our needs and preferences, and we know how we like to “roll” in terms of timing and choice of sites. I won’t include much about our planning, preparing, or packing. We love history, scenic views, taking photos, and making our own way in our travels. DH has recently (fall 2018) retired after 40 years as a chemical engineer; I teach literature and humanities in a small private school.

Pre-travel plans: We have loved our traveling times and have enjoyed many international trips (he many more than I due to business trips). So although retirement means a different financial situation, we still want to go on at least one international trip a year, as long as we are able. He has many, many AA FF miles in his account as well as a few perks leftover (although those will end soon) and lots of travel savvy.

As we considered where to go in 2019, my first choice was Ireland, and he agreed and said he’d be willing to drive (but requested I try to keep off roads like he’d endured in Cornwall in 2018!). I had been in Dublin for half a day in 2017, leading a group of students, but M had never been in Ireland at all. We decided to experiment to see how “cheap” we could be, using points/FF miles for things, flying Economy, and renting a smaller car than he usually does. He used AA miles in July 2018 to book flights, he reserved a car to pick up at Dublin airport our 3rd day there, I made several tentative plans using all my usual resources (Fodor’s Forum, a few guidebooks, the internet, especially Google Maps), and we secured rooms, including 3 nights using Hilton points. I did make one booking change a few months later, and I decided not to pre-buy much except for tickets to the Book of Kells and to the Guinness Storehouse (tickets I bought as soon as they were available for purchase in the spring of 2019). I checked and rechecked admission times and prices.

Also we got two paper road atlases—an Ordnance Survey and an Automobile Association (AA); they were cheaper to buy through Blackwell’s in Oxford (fond memories!) than through Amazon. We used the AA one on the road. M likes to know EXACTLY what to enter into a GPS, so I found addresses for things (hotels, possible restaurants, sites, even parking lots) as EXACTLY as I could, but that’s not always possible in Ireland. I made a list of possible eateries near where we’d be staying or maybe visiting; we aren’t “foodies,” but knowing what might be available in an area is helpful. We knew to add time to whatever a mapping app gave as travel times, adding roughly 50% which gave us a good estimate.

Unique reason for part of our itinerary: One of the main reasons for going to Ireland was to visit, as so many Americans do, an ancestral sight. I am not “into” genealogy, but a cousin did enough research to learn that one of my ancestors was Richard Lovell Edgeworth (d. 1817), an Anglo-Irish landowner, inventor, parliamentarian, and (most interesting to me) educator. And he was the father of novelist and education pioneer Maria Edgeworth (d.1849). Richard was an amazingly inventive man, and Maria wrote several novels (e. g., Belinda, The Absentee, Helen) and was more commercially successful and famous during her lifetime than Jane Austen. Richard and oldest daughter Maria (who never married) also wrote much on education that had major influences then and still rings true today (e. g.,young children need to learn through play). On the other hand, my American line seems to have come through his eldest son, also named Richard, who ended up in North Carolina; he was a bit of a wastrel, “left” the Royal Navy, and was estranged from his father for years but did reconcile. Unlike many absentee landlords that plagued Ireland, so vividly depicted in Maria’s novel Castle Rackrent (counted as the “first regional novel), from what I read it seems that Richard Edgeworth took care of his lands and his tenants, treating them fairly, establishing schools, and displaying religious tolerance. So, we definitely would go to Edgeworthstown, northwest of Dublin, for at least a stop, the first day out of Dublin. There’s not much left of any buildings that were there during their lives, but Richard and Maria (and other family members among his four wives and twenty-two children) are buried there, and there’s an Edgeworth Society which keeps their heritage alive. Going through this little town is not on most people’s agenda.

Days 0-1—Saturday-Sunday—Flying and Arrival in Dublin

Using FF miles limits your flight choices somewhat, so we had to go with a 5 AM flight, so we got up at 3! We didn’t get one of our kids or a friend to drive us; we parked at the airport before 4, got checked in and through security quickly, and boarded on time. We had bulkhead seats in Economy which gave us nice legroom (but does come with the negative of not having my handbag readily available). M is pretty “spoiled” by all his years of Business class flying, and we’ve had plenty of upgrades which enabled me to travel in many Business seats, too. So traveling Economy is…well, it’s different. In DFW, we went to the new Terminal D AA Lounge (M is still Platinum until 2020) and spent the next 5 hours. We had breakfast, read and rested, and had some lunch. The food was great, and that lounge is spacious and comfortable. Then we had a flight to Charlotte which was a little late leaving; we again had bulkhead seats but with less legroom. We broke out our new travel pillows and slept a little. In Charlotte our 90-minute layover and the blessedly not-too-long-of-a-walk to our gate (we both have negative memories of walking a LONG way in that airport) enabled us to find the Lounge; we recharged our devices and enjoyed fresh guacamole and chips. M had other nibbles as he planned to not eat on the flight to Dublin. At the gate, it was very crowded with agents yelling, “Get out your passports; make sure they’re signed; everybody’s passport must be signed, even babies’; open your passport to the picture.” Maybe lots of travel-novices go through here? Anyway, the plane left on time; our Main Cabin Extra seats had maybe an extra inch or two, but they don’t lean back much, so…M went right to shallow sleep; I ate some of the really bad pasta dinner and then tried to nap. I started Captain Marvel but the IFE machine glitched too much; I dozed off finally a little during Grindelwald. We were both pretty uncomfy, but oh well.

We arrived a little early; we were at the gate by 6:45; passport control took hardly any time; bags came in less than 5 more minutes; we already had some euros but used an ATM for more. We had decided to take one of the Airlink buses and found that stop very easily with clear instructions on the signage. We chose to wait an 5 extra minutes for the 757, not 747, as it looked faster and would maybe drop us closer. We waited less than 15 minutes; we had exact change (€7 each); there was plenty of room; the bus dropped us off opposite the Hilton Garden Inn near the Custom House Quay by 7:30. This was quite a bit faster than we anticipated! M had talked to the hotel about check-in options; we had decided not to pay for an extra night but had been told a room would likely be ready by 9 or 10. Upon our arrival, however, they said it would be early afternoon. We left our bags with the helpful staff and went to find some breakfast; “behind” the HGI on Mayor Lower Street, I’d noted on Maps, are a Fresh and an M&S Simply Foods, but, as expected, they weren’t open yet; nothing much at all seemed open. (And we had our first of several encounters with a helpful Irishman who stopped to ask if he could help direct us.) So we just went back and had breakfast at the hotel, which is always expensive but was the right thing to do this day.

Day 1—Sunday—Dublin

After food and a bit of rest, we felt like tackling a walk, in the quite cool (50ish), breezy, gray day. We accessed our bags to re-arrange our stuff, left them with the hotel and set off to explore part of Dublin.

The HGI is on the Liffey with the Jeanie Johnston on the left as you leave the lobby and the EPIC museum to the right. On this Sunday, it was a very quiet area. We walked along the Liffey (we like river-side walks), noting the Famine sculpture, past the Custom House and to the O’Connell Monument. Then up to the General Post Office and—what is that Spire thing, anyway? We weren’t taking time to immerse ourselves in Irish history this trip, but I did want to at least glimpse some of the important sites. Next we navigated to the Temple Bar area for pictures of some mostly empty streets. One thing we noticed right away, and which held true, was how un-littered Dublin is, in the areas where we were.

About 10:30 we got to Dublin Castle. The courtyard was not crowded, but there was quite a throng at the ticket area. We opted to just take the self-guided tour, which doesn’t let you in some places, but the next guided tour was much later than we were willing to wait. Here I bought the Heritage Cards for €30 each (senior discount); had to use cash as their CC machines were not working. I think we about broke even using this Pass and didn’t see much “skip the queue” benefit anywhere, but it still was a good thing for us. The walk through the rooms, which were sparsely furnished and not spectacular, was ok and there weren’t hordes of people. St. Patrick’s Hall is grand; M had been expecting more “castle” and less “palace,” but we’re glad we stopped by.

At the foot of Cork Hill up to the Castle, on Dame Street, we found the Queen of Tarts; it was on my list of potential restaurants, and at 11:45 it was lunch time. This tiny tearoom was packed (meaning there were about 20 people), but a table emptied right as we got to the door. We had tasty sandwiches served quickly and by another friendly person.

As it was Sunday, churches were only open for visitors at certain hours; but Christ Church Cathedral a very short walk away opened at 12:30, and we got there at 12:35. We were tired so maybe that led to being a bit under-whelmed. It’s pretty and I’m glad we went in. I know we went into the crypts, Ireland’s largest and the oldest working structure in Dublin, but we were too foggy to take much notice. The cat and rat mummies did catch our eyes, as did the (yuck) heart of St. Lauren’s O’Toole, Dublin’s patron saint. But we decided we were done for now; we walked back to the hotel by about 2. The room—which was fine, roomy, with comfy beds and plenty of plugs—was ready; we settled in and had a rest.

About 5:30 we walked to Merchants Arch, a pub that DD and I and the student group had greatly enjoyed in 2017. It’s right at the foot of Ha’Penny Bridge which by now was crowded but still fun to cross. At Merchants Arch, we perched on stools for our good dinner (cottage pie and Guinness beef pie with potatoes), M enjoyed his first Guinness in Ireland, and we listened to the live (good, but not traditional Irish) music.

Now out and about there were many, many more people. There were tour buses everywhere the whole time we were in Dublin (and beyond). I had learned there was a big music festival in Dublin all weekend, but it was around Phoenix Park, so the crowds where we were were just…crowds. Being a Bank Holiday weekend may have brought more local folks, but mostly we saw crowds being led off and on buses and around by some tour guide. Also we saw several stag parties with matching shirts/outfits/hats. Ha.

Back along the Liffey, we went to the hotel about 7:00; we liked all the bridges, especially the harp-shaped Samuel Beckett. The weather had stayed ok but was very windy, but no real rain. (We live in a perpetually windy city, but these Dublin winds were brutal, even to us!) We were asleep, courtesy of the good light-blocking drapery, by 8:30, almost 36 hours since the alarm had gone off Saturday morning back at home!

Next up: Our Dublin Day
texasbookworm is offline  
Jun 30th, 2019, 10:45 AM
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Day 2—Monday—Dublin

We went looking for breakfast about 8, but despite my pre-trip research, when I had specifically “asked” about Bank Holiday effects, nothing was open, again. So we went back to the HGI for breakfast again. I was frustrated as I’d tried to have accurate times noted, but….Today there was a mostly blue sky with some chance of showers later; cool and windy still. A bus marked “Game of Thrones Tour” was loading up at the HGI! Bet that’s very popular with its finale just a few weeks ago.

About 8:45 we walked to Trinity College where we had Book of Kells tickets for 9:30, so we took a few photos then got in the line for pre-purchased tickets but behind what looked like at least one large bus-load of people. The other line, though, for ticket purchases, was already very, very much longer. This is definitely a pre-planning-is-necessary/advisable site. Right on time the line began to move, and we were in very quickly—amidst a very crowded mass. But seeing the Book of Kells, even if briefly and even if only for the page it was turned to, was lovely. And on into the Long Room of the library, where it was still crowded but not as bad; we enjoyed this pretty spot. With its 200,00 books, I think the books still outnumbered the visitors—at least, at any given moment. There was a crowd with cameras around the Brian Boru harp. And M found a display of a book by Maria Edgeworth! Two American sisters heard M and me talking and asked about it, so we had a nice conversation. That was unexpectedly fun! Afterwards, we found a toilet and a mid-morning coke and checked walking time to St. Patrick’s Cathedral—which GoogleMaps said was closed this day. Which is not what anything else had ever said, so we started toward it anyway, via a couple stops.

First we went down Grafton Street, beginning to look for a lunch place. I spotted Bewley’s (on my list of recommendations), which actually says “Oriental Café,” but that’s historical, not descriptive of the menu now, we found out. (The founding Bewleys were involved in the tea and coffee trade, importing tea in 1835 for the first time ever directly from China.) They weren’t serving lunch yet, but we’d be happy with their brunch options. This was one of my favorite meals and restaurants the whole trip. First, it’s a beautiful place; I loved the stained-glass windows and mahogany paneling, and we sat on a second floor sort of balcony overlooking the tables below. Second, every waitperson (we had about 4 different ones) was charming. Third, the food—we got scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with toasts—was scrumptious. They take their tea seriously, too; our pot arrived with a handwritten notation of the onset of steeping! Afterwards, we were invited to look around upstairs--more seating, more artwork, a theater (shows at 1 pm M-Sat—sadly, we didn’t have time for that), and some info about this site (which became a café in 1927, closed in 2014, and re-opened in 2017). The building once housed Whyte's Academy, a school whose pupils included the Duke of Wellington. Fascinating and tasty stop!

It had started raining while we were inside, and Grafton Street was filled with shoppers scurrying under umbrellas or with their jacket hoods up. We ducked into Gino’s for some gelato (we were last in one of these in Chester). We walked the short distance to St. Stephen’s Green, and it stopped raining! So we had a nice brief stroll through this lovely green space.

We went on Cuffe and Kevin Streets toward St. Patrick’s—which WAS open. We spent a happy hour or so here. I had been there with DD and students in 2017, so I didn’t need to read all the plaques but enjoyed my walk and look around again. While M had his closer look, I did a couple “brass rubbings” on small brasses; I did a Celtic cross and one of Jonathan Swift, former Dean here. (Back at the hotel, M tucked them safely in the poster tube he brought, and I plan to get them framed for a souvenir/gift for DD who teaches Swift’s work in 7th and 11th grades.) Being in grander cathedrals like Wells or Toledo or Chartres or Mainz or York or Bayeux has probably made us a bit jaded, but St. Patrick’s is lovely in a greyer, blockier way, and I do love the history. So glad it was open. And the park adjacent was sparkling in the sunshine, and we sat on a bench watching people and dogs enjoy the day, just relaxing, as it was just after 2 and we had a 15-minute walk to the Guinness Storehouse with entry tickets at 4:30.

In the Kells line this morning, some Americans next to us had said how much they enjoyed their tour of Teeling Whiskey Distillery. About 3, M realized we were only about 10 minutes away and that going by there would only add 5 minutes to our walk to Guinness. So we went there, but the next tour wasn’t until after 4 and takes an hour, so we didn’t do that. He got a bit of souvenir anyway. On we went to Guinness, when I fell down, slipping as I mis-stepped up a curb. Banged my knee but didn’t tear clothes or anything major (unlike last year in London, when I made the same sort of mis-step but actually tore two ligaments in my thumb).

Then on to Guinness where it was a mad house everywhere—parking lot, street, ticket line, inside, store, etc. We got there about 3:50, were let in, went through a shorter-since-we-had-“tickets” queue to get actual tickets, then were let in and told that the next orientation for a self-guided tour was in about 10 minutes. (The line to buy tickets was pretty long, so it was good to have pre-booked.) But I don’t know what good the timed-entrance thing was; nobody seemed to check (maybe the machine that printed an actual paper ticket noted time) and there didn’t seem to be any sort of limit to admittance. And in the meantime, in all the hustle, including realizing my knee was indeed bleeding and having to put a band-aid on it, I lost my “golden ticket” for a pint at the end of the tour. I didn’t care that much (I don’t like beer much), but I found a nice young man to ask; he said to just show my entrance printout; I’m probably not the first or last to do this! We looked around the shop, but the aisles were clogged with other shoppers.

Anyway, we began the tour; on we went, literally shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along the route through the displays explaining the ingredients and brewing process, which seemed to be nicely done but at this point held no attraction for me; I didn’t feel like competing for space. We had the tasting experience with the cute mini-glasses of brew, crammed into a room almost shoulder to shoulder again. We opted to not use our golden tickets for the “how to pull a perfect draught” but to use them in the Gravity Bar; it’s only good for one of those places; I think you could visit the Bar but not get/buy anything if you’d done the “pull” option. Ok, this was the worst yet; there were so many people jostling for their drinks, it wasn’t fun. We managed to find a place to stand next to a tall table sorta in a corner; while we were there, two different couples from two different cultures practically stepped on me and pushed their way onto part of the tiny table. Humpf. M circled the room to take a few pics; there is a nice view. Then another couple came to “our” table, young, smiling, polite; we had a nice conversation with Ryan and Kate. They were from Milwaukee and about to finish their week in Ireland. We talked about the value of travel. Nice end to a frustrating visit. As this is Ireland’s top tourist attraction, I had expected crowds but not like this. And when I asked, an employee said it was just a typical crowd. Maybe the only way to avoid the crush is to go at opening.

Outside it was raining, not hard but steadily. It was a little more than a mile walk, in the rain and blustery wind, to The Winding Stair, a lovely restaurant above a bookshop (of the same name) on the north side of the Liffey near the Ha’Penny Bridge. (I didn’t keep a record of who recommended what restaurant, but I’m pretty sure that the two winners today—Bewley’s and The Winding Stair—were recommended by Fodorites—thanks!) There we had a most excellent meal; M had a tender and delicious steak, and I had smoked haddock and mashed potatoes. The waiter, who was “typically” friendly and helpful, said my selection was the most traditionally Irish meal on the menu and that grown men had been known to cry when eating it, as it reminded them of their grandmothers. Well, I didn’t cry, but I sure did enjoy it! The wall had a mural of bookshelves and three men; I recognized Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce; when I asked the waiter if the painting of a bust, sitting on one of the painted shelves, was of Swift, he said, Well done; nobody ever gets that one.

Less than a mile walk, still in the rain, back to the hotel, where we packed up.

Next up--Getting the Car, Trim Castle, and Edgeworthstown; Clonmacnoise and the Cliffs of Moher
texasbookworm is offline  
Jun 30th, 2019, 04:58 PM
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Day 4—Wednesday—Clonmacnoise and the Cliffs of Moher

This day’s weather promised to be better, if quite cool (barely 50 for highs) and still windy. At breakfast, we discussed our route to Clonmacnoise; the most direct one involved some R roads, but to use M and N ones only would involve backtracking. M said he’d do the short route, which worked out fine. The car’s GPS gave us a good route with mostly narrow but 2-lane roads; it was lightly sprinkling occasionally, and traffic was also very light.

We arrived in about 40 minutes at Clonmacnoise about 10:15, drove past the crooked ruins of Clonmacnoise Castle, parked at the monastery site lot, and used our Heritage Cards to enter. The weather improved as the morning went on. Although the parking lot was pretty full and there were already a few buses, there wasn’t a crowded feel at all. This ancient ecclesiastical site was founded about 548 by St. Ciaran and developed into a major center of religion, trade, learning, craftsmanship, and political influence. Scholars from all over Europe came to this monastery, one of the most famous in Ireland. It was more like a town than monastery, but the wooden structures have not survived. Situated on the River Shannon where it crosses a major east/west trade route, the site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th-13th century), two round towers, three high crosses, and the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. During the height of its growth, between the 8th and 12th century, it was attacked frequently, mostly by the Irish (at least 27 times), the Vikings (at least 7 times) and Normans (at least 6 times). First we walked through the Visitor Centre which houses the three stunning high crosses; the originals are nicely displayed here, out of the weathering weather, while exact replicas are out on their original sites. Outside, for the first time, we saw round towers, free-standing belfries typical of Irish church sites. We walked through the new graveyard to the Nun’s Church. Along this path M found a 4-leaf clover, so we carried the luck o’the Irish with us, pressed between receipts in his wallet! The sky turned blue and the wind kept gusting; we were glad we’d brought jackets and our scarves! On the way back to the main site, I fell again, mis-stepping again up a step. Not a pattern I need to repeat! No major harm. After more picture-taking, we left about noon.

We drove to Kinvarra about 1:15 and found Keough’s, a place on my list, with easy parking in a lot. We had soup and toasted sandwiches and crisps. Nice place for lunch. (About soups—we had 4 different kinds and they were all sorta the same—pureed, like a tomato soup. They all tasted ok, if a bit bland, but we were not fans of the texture.)

Now we headed to the Cliffs of Moher, driving along the Wild Atlantic Way (N 67) through some of The Burren. The landscape was starkly lovely, the skies were blue, and the roads were not too narrow or very crowded. We stopped a couple times for photos. Near Lisdoonvarrna, we got on R 478 to the Cliffs Visitor Experience, where we parked on the edge of a big parking lot which was very busy and walked across the road to the Centre, which is situated Hobbit-hole-like in a hill.

The Cliffs are breathtaking (this day, literally, as the wind was still howling!). After a quick visit in the Centre, we walked north/right first, took tons of photos, then walked back near the Centre and then south/left a little ways. Wow. Everything was sun-lit and sparkling—azure blue skies, navy and turquoise blue seas, gray cliffs, green grass—it was just beautiful. I understand why this is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. Words are insufficient. There were lots of people, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared; they were mostly pretty strung out along the paths, so views, even for photo-taking, weren’t impeded much. The Centre, however, was jam-packed. We didn’t spend long in there. On an interactive display upstairs, M explored his family name’s evidence in Ireland; that was fun. I bought what ended up being the only souvenirs I bought—a teabag tidy (tradition for me since 2005) and a Christmas ornament (Irish harp made from bog material).

We left about 5:30 and got to Ennistymon about 6:15 and found The Station House B&B, our room for the night. It’s a small, older hotel with a big room and friendly but not pushy hostess. We walked to Byrne’s Restaurant where we had a table from which I could see the waterfalls on the River Inagh. The food was good; the service slow. After more pureed soups, I had my first ever guinea fowl with veggies and mushroom sauce while M had a steak with potatoes and a good pepper sauce. We shared a yummy chocolate mousse for dessert. We waddled the half kilometer back to the room. We were both a bit sore in spots. I backed up our photos onto the tablet, and we were in bed before 10.

Day 5—Thursday—Loop Head Lighthouse and Adare on the way to Killorglin

Today’s tentative plan was to have a pretty easy day, driving a little over 100 miles through Adare and making a stop at the Blennerville Windmill before arriving at Killorglin. But when M noticed a lighthouse between where we were and where we were going, he decided he’d rather take longer (only about 10 miles further but maybe 90 minutes longer, due to different roads) and see more countryside, as the day’s forecast was mostly good if still cool (low’s in high 40’s, high’s in 50’s—not accounting for the wind chill!) with a few showers possible. So after a good breakfast, off we went.

Except we couldn’t go there as planned—we were Trumpled. (I will not engage in any political comments.) The roads to and near Doonbeg were closed off, as the President was due to return to his golf course, I think that evening. But with the help of our paper map, the GPS, and a nice Garda officer at one of the barriers, we were able to navigate through the countryside.

We arrived at Loop Head Lighthouse about 11:30 to find many cars in the parking lot—but the lighthouse was closed until noon due to staff training (ergo, all the cars). We weren’t sure we wanted to go up, anyway, and we could walk around next to the cliffs (well, not too near!) for pics, so we spent a half an hour enjoying a blustery walk with beautiful views of the sea and the lighthouse and the cliffs. The ground was often spongy and springy; felt like walking on a foamy mattress! At noonish, we decided we’d not go into the site, so we headed back the way we came on R487.

We decided we wanted to find something to eat; as this trip was not something I’d researched, I didn’t have any suggestions. We came to Keating’s near Kilbaha; lovely setting on the water; stopped. And as I got out of the car, I dropped the camera, lens down; hit hard; broke the lens (16-50 mm for our Sony 6000). Words can’t express my distress. Lost my appetite. But we ordered; M had good burger; I think I got a ham sandwich. M looked at possibilities of going to Limerick or Shannon to get a lens in a camera shop or ordering one to be delivered to the B&B where we’d be for the next 3 nights. But those weren’t going to work. So we would just muddle on. M’s phone camera takes decent pics (as does mine, except it had decided to only work about 25% of the time, a recurring issue for last year or so). Plus we have our Samsung tablet, which takes pretty good pics. And we had the 55-210 mm zoom lens for the Sony; that takes great pics, just not the close, more “normal” shots. Oh, well.

We drove a bit over 2 hours to Adare, where I didn’t care about stopping anymore. But we needed a potty break, and he decided we’d look for ice cream. The town was very busy; reminded us for some reason of Windemere, except it wasn’t raining. M found a parking spot on the street, but a short walk led to no potty. Started to leave Adare, found a different spot, and went on another short walk. No potty or ice cream, but we popped into Arches, where we were seated as the only guests and got tea and delicious chocolate cake and ice cream to share. While we were there, the manager greeted us warmly but then went over to the door and turned over the Open sign. I think we came in when they were actually normally closed for afternoon break, but they served us anyway. Good stop. I’ve read where Adare is supposed to be one of Ireland’s prettiest towns, and we did see a few thatched roofs and brightly colored store fronts, but we didn’t look around enough to form much of an opinion other than that the people were accommodating and the streets were quite busy.

Then it was on to Coffey’s Rivers Edge B&B in Killorglin, 60 miles away. It began to rain. Then we got about a mile away and ran into major roadworks. One lane ahead, so we sat for a long time. A long time. When we got near the bridge, the GPS said we’d arrived in Killorglin (as it couldn’t find the exact location of Rivers Edge); it was raining and men were pouring hot tar, making a Stygian fog that further confused us, and I mis-directed us to turn, when the B&B was actually just across the bridge. So M made a u-turn, but now we were stuck in the backed-up traffic due to the roadwork. It took probably 30 minutes to make that last mile, but we did arrive safely before 6. We were greeted, too effusively for M’s taste, offered many suggestions for drives the next couple of days, and escorted to our room. This B&B has a good location on the River Laune next to the bridge—except the roadworks negate some of the normal advantages for the location. Our room was as promised—2 quite comfy beds, en suite, river view—but was a bit shabby around the edges, was rather full of furniture, had only a tiny shower (not smallest we’ve ever seen, but small), and had plugs only behind furniture which had to be moved for access to charge all our devices. The breakfasts were good, it was quiet even though on the end next to the only bridge in town, and it was within walking distance to some restaurants, a grocery, and a pharmacy (more about that soon).

Our host had recommended Nick’s, less than 5 minutes away. So we went there, and I thought it was ok (chicken and veggies) if overpriced, while M wasn’t feeling good so didn’t enjoy his salmon as much as usual.

Well, what was happening was that he was coming down with some sort of intestinal thing. He said at first it was the onion soup from Byrne’s the night before, but I think it was a virus, not food poisoning. He had some aches and might have had a low fever for a bit, too.

Next 2 days--Dingle and Kerry drives
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 1st, 2019, 05:26 AM
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Day 6—Friday—Rest and the Dingle Peninsula Loop

This was supposed to be the day we drove around the Dingle Peninsula, but after M’s unsettled night, I didn’t expect him to be well enough to drive. I had salmon and eggs at the B&B while he slept. At 9 I walked less than 5 minutes uphill to a pharmacy for some “European Imodium” which he took and slept til noonish; his acute symptoms abated but he didn’t feel great. I walked to the Eurospar also less than 5 minutes uphill for some lunch for me and “European Gatorade” to help him keep hydrated.

He decided he could drive for a while, so we left a little after 1. On the other side of the river, we were stopped again by the major roadworks which had only one lane open on N70. We waited a few minutes, and I noticed some people ahead standing out of their cars. Then it was our turn to go; maybe 5 cars got past the light when a firetruck came by with the siren on and pulled across the road about 5 cars in front of us. We sat. An ambulance came by. Obviously something had happened. We, and others, made a u-turn, and we let the GPS wiggle us around the L roads (which must stand for “little lane”) for a bit, to Milltown, I think. It wasn’t too bad. Except for M still not feeling too good!

We stopped at Inch Beach for a break and a brief look; the sky was full of lowering white clouds, but it didn’t rain. Pretty but we didn’t linger. We then drove the Slea Head Loop with a few stops for pics; the ring fort was inaccessible due to storm damage; I walked up hill to some beehive huts; we saw lots of sheep, several sheepdogs, and plenty of cows; the traffic was not bad and, as we drove clockwise from Dingle, I don’t remember meeting a car and hardly saw any buses this late afternoon. We got to the Gallarus Oratory about 4 where M got out, too, for brief time. This is a cool site. We elected not to go the long way back over the Connor Pass as M had pushed himself about to the limit. This drive was pretty, not as crowded as I’d feared, and dotted with ancient sites which are fascinating. But we were not able to enjoy it fully (or M at all, really!); I’m grateful he made the supreme effort he did to take me along the drive and that he made it around and back not too much worse off! I went back to the Eurospar for some nibbles for my dinner and some more drinks for him.

Day 7—Saturday—Ring of Kerry

M was feeling better; not 100% or even 75% but able to function.

I had several options planned for this day, going either toward the Ring of Kerry or to the Beara Peninsula. As I had read about Kerry crowds and as a neighbor had recently really enjoyed exploring the Beara area, I was leaning toward Beara. But that would have been a good bit further to drive and also make a longer day for us, so, given M’s recuperative state, I recommended Kerry after all. Good decision.

We ate breakfast and left about 9:30 in beautiful weather; still cool, only a few light sprinkles all day, blue skies mostly, still windy. We drove the Ring from Killorglin all the way around, going anti-clockwise, plus a little extra loop for the Skellig Ring. Much has been written by more adept tour guides than I; we had a lovely day, the traffic was not a problem at all, and we enjoyed it. We just drove and pulled over at various safe spots for pics of gorgeous views. We noted the O’Connell memorial church in Cahersiveen; we appreciated the convenient public toilets at several spots like Portmagee and the beach at Ballinskelligs. Our favorite thing was viewing Skellig Michael from several viewing points across St. Finian’s Bay from R565. The only thing we actually stopped to get out at was at one of the ring forts, Staigue Fort, which is a few kilometers down a sub-L lane (it’s pretty narrow!); it was well worth the drive to see this impressive, maybe 2500-year-old structure. M was still not eating much, and I’d brought cheese, crackers, and fruit, so we just snacked when we wanted “lunch.”

The end of the Ring (going “our” route) went over the mountains through Moll’s Gap and Ladies View (both lovely), on toward Killarney through the National Park. We hadn’t had any issues with bus traffic at all; we passed lots of them parked in parking lots for restaurants and shops, but they didn’t hamper our drive. But in the Park we got stuck behind a rental RV going half the speed limits, on the windy roads, so we made slow progress through the lovely woods. We were back in Killorglin (not having to go through the major roadworks was nice) by about 3, giving M time to rest.

He wanted mashed potatoes, so for dinner we walked up the hill to find some. We stopped in the first pub we came to where they didn’t serve food but recommended Bunkers a bit further on—take a left at the traffic circle. So at the intersection, we turned left but didn’t see it. A little and old lady with her walker stopped and said, “Are you looking for food? You’ll want to try Bunkers. It’s clean and not expensive. Go to the traffic circle just there and go left.” We said thanks and with now clearer instructions found it. They had mashed potatoes, and I had a decent chicken dish. Clean and not expensive. As we were leaving, we saw our lady friend, just coming in. Just one of the several stories of helpful Irish men and women giving us needed directions!

We had a little look around, stopping at an Aldi (they all look the same—kinda junky) to check fruitlessly for sports drinks; we got some at Eurospar as we walked back to our room. Backed up pictures, planned the details of the next day, and got M in bed early.

Next: The rest of our trip
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 1st, 2019, 08:10 AM
  #5  
 
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I am following along and love reading your trip report! Heading there in October!
girlonthego is offline  
Jul 1st, 2019, 09:00 AM
  #6  
 
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Thank you for the great details. I'm putting Bewley's on our Dublin to-do list.
greytop13 is offline  
Jul 1st, 2019, 12:38 PM
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You are a great writer. We got sick in Dublin in May but more a sinus infection/hayfever. I hate wasting vacation time sick in bed but really felt lousy. Your husband was a champ. Bewley's teas really helped. I love that it is reopened. You can see them baking if you go to the loo.
Macross is online now  
Jul 1st, 2019, 08:49 PM
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Enjoying your trip report. Love the people of Ireland.
Paqngo is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2019, 10:10 AM
  #9  
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Thanks, all above, for encouraging words. I'll post the last days later today.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2019, 10:49 AM
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I've only been able to skim so far - will read more of the details later this evening . Really looking forward to your report since I haven't bee to the Cliffs and that area in more than a decade and am thinking go going next June-ish . . .
janisj is online now  
Jul 2nd, 2019, 11:41 AM
  #11  
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janisj--hi--the Cliffs lived up to all expectations for me. We did have a lovely day if breezy--that makes huge difference. And it wasn't as crowded as it seems to often be, from looking at videos and reading reports--that makes a difference, too. And neither of those things can be accurately predicted, but we are really glad we chose to go.
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Jul 2nd, 2019, 01:16 PM
  #12  
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Day 8—Sunday—Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny

For this day I had 2 plans—see the Rock of Cashel and then on to Kilkenny in time to at least tour the castle or just go directly to Kilkenny and have a leisurely day strolling and shopping as well as touring the castle. I had been leaning toward skipping the Rock, but M thought it looked cool plus the weather was looking showery for the time we would get to Kilkenny. I knew M would enjoy a tour of the Rock more than strolling in the rain.

So after breakfast, we left about 9 and let the GPS plot our course, which had us on lots of R roads, which would have been fine but there was some sort (or sorts) of bike race/s, so lots of bikers in wide groups were difficult to pass on the windy roads. These are the sort of things that map apps cannot predict, so it’s why it’s wise to add sufficient extra driving times when making plans. But we there about 11:30 and parked in the almost full lot at the base of the Rock. It was again a beautiful day, still in 50’s, with no rain all morning but dark clouds always lurking. Made for some lovely skies all blue and white and gray. We caught a 12 pm tour of the Romanesque Cormac’s Chapel made of golden sandstone and then went on a 12:30 tour of the other structures including a look at the round tower. Both guides were excellent; the ruins are fascinating; the views from up high were terrific over the green and fertile Plain of Tipperary (and we saw more bikes racing on the roads below); it was a great stop. And remember it’s NOT nor was it ever a castle—fortress, chapel, cathedral, monastic buildings, but not an actual “castle.”

It was about 1:30 and began pouring rain; M decided he wanted to try an Irish McDonald’s which was at the next M road exit, so we went. That may have been the most crowded McD’s I have ever been in; several football teams of middle-school-age boys must have just finished play, and they and all their families and fans were there! But we ate and got back on the road.

We arrived at Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel about 3:30. What a surprising gem! From the helpful, friendly staff, to the pretty lobby, to the good location on the Medieval Mile, to its being 2 minutes, if you don’t count waiting at the long lights, from the Castle, to the good breakfast—all wonderful. And the room was—a big suite with a huge bathroom with a jetted tub, a big sitting room, a separate bedroom with comfy beds, 2 tv’s, plenty of outlets for charging. My favorite of all the places we stayed; only negative was that we hardly had time to enjoy it! And for parking, there were 2 options across the street—a covered, multi-story park or, a bit further up the hill and for less money, another smaller open lot, where we parked.

Kilkenny Castle was next; we got there about 4, and we walked through the lovely rooms and around the pretty grounds for a bit over an hour. Again M commented this was more palace than castle; it’s undergone extensive restoration in the 50 years that the castle has been in the OPW’s care, restoring it to its 1830 grandness. This year, there is a bed with flowers in shape of “50” in honor of the anniversary. I especially loved the ceiling in the Long/Picture Gallery. Afterwards we just went back to the hotel for a bit, so we didn’t explore Kilkenny any. As we left, M retrieved a hurling ball that was missed by some kids playing on the green in front of the castle, and the young lady he returned it to told him a bit about hurling—big weekend for games, looked like.

M wanted to watch The Canadian Grand Prix if possible, beginning at 6:10. In the hotel bar, a waiter told M he could watch it at a pub called Paris, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk away. So we got there about 5:45, in a steady rain, and got seated in the back after a short wait during which we enjoyed a conversation with a young bartender. He explained that the owner was a fan of the movie Paris, Texas, (heard of it, never saw it), especially the soundtrack, so he named the pub after it. It had had a Tex-Mex theme but was now that with an American Southern influence; he said it kinda compared to TGIF’s but better. Which we found it to be. We were seated by 6—turned out the coverage started at 6:10 but the race not til 7:10, but, while it was quite busy, we were able to stay til the end of the race. Our food was terrific; we started with their chips and 3 dips which were different from what we get in Texas but good—a sweet salsa, a queso, and a guacamole which was way too mayonnaise-y for our tastes but all fine. M had a HUGE Cobb salad; I tried their chicken quesadillas which were also huge, too big to pick up actually, but smoky-flavored with plenty of avocado and other yummy bits. A man about our age stopped by our table and asked M what he was eating, as it looked good. Later, he and a mate stopped by and asked where we were from. Seems he had been at a big hurling match this day which, sadly, Kilkenny lost by 1 (to Galway?). M also had a conversation with a couple next to us from The Netherlands who were also there to watch the race and were happy with their fellow countryman Max Verstappen’s fifth place finish. About 9:00 we walked back in the pouring rain, but it wasn’t far; enjoyed the comfort of our pretty room a bit and then lights out.

Day 9—Glendalough and back to Dublin

Our last day was the most beautiful one, with no rain on us at all and temps reaching into the low 60’s for a bit under some sun. After breakfast (included in cost) in the pretty hotel restaurant, we set off for Glendalough about 9. We just let the GPS set a course, which had us on lots of R roads, more than I had plotted, but they were fine. It was a pretty day for a countryside drive; we only had to back up once when we met 3 huge farming machines, even though lots of stretches were single-car width. At some point we came around a corner and atop a rise and there was a lovely little castle in view. I guessed from following the atlas map that it might be Ducketts Grove House; M turned down a little lane without the GPS’s instructions—he’d seen a sign and thought we might find that House. We did; it’s a beautiful ruin of a 19th century estate; today there’re some walled gardens and a tea room, neither of which we took time for; pretty spot for few pics.

We got to Glendalough, along with lots of others including lots of buses, about 11:30 and parked easily. At the Visitor Centre the person suggested we go walk around outside and come back to the Centre later as they were very busy. But we never did. We weren’t there to see AV presentations or read info inside or shop; it was a tiny off-putting, but she was probably trying to be helpful.

This is another site, like Clonmacnoise, the Rock of Cashel, the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, that has had much detail written about it, so I won’t describe it in much detail. First we set off for the monastic city site with its famous round tower. There were quite a few people here, including several tour groups whose leaders chose to stop in the middle of the narrow paths to give their mini-lectures. We prowled around, took pics, read displays, enjoyed it. Then we set off on the Green Road for the 1.4 km walk along a nice, easy, shaded path past the Lower Lake to the Upper Lake. I didn’t have a firm grasp of food options, but I thought there were kiosks with fast food between the Lakes; well, there are, in the parking lot between them, but just one for ice cream and one for greasy looking hot dogs and burgers. We opted to eat dessert first and find lunch later, so we sat in the lovely sun and had cones; M’s broke before he finished, but he got another to plop his scoop on before it melted away! We took the .2 km longer “Boardwalk” path back which was also a pretty walk and afforded us a different perspective with a glimpse of the monastic city and tower. Back at the Visitor Centre, we found another kiosk with sandwiches next to the nice-looking restaurant; we sat in the sun, enjoying the lovely day and being at least sustained by non-descript sandwiches. Weren’t there for the food!

Rather reluctantly, but we had seen all we wanted to, we set off about 2:30 on our last major drive, to Dublin where we got to the Hilton Kilmainham about 4. Nice location; typically nice room. We checked out some eating options and decided we’d just eat in the hotel after a walk. About 5 we had a look around, just taking pictures of the Gaol as we had not planned to visit, and going right across the street to the pretty tree-lined avenue next to the completely gated/walled-in Bully’s Acre. The walk leads to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. M had seen that there were some gardens around here; first we just came to the large, empty, dirt and grass expanse in front of the IMMA, but then we found the pretty walled formal garden next to the IMMA. From here we could see the obelisk of Wellington’s Memorial in Phoenix Park, but we didn’t take or have time to go to that park which DD had greatly enjoyed in 2017 on her solo stay in Dublin.

Back at the hotel, it was so nice (at first) that we decided to eat our big salads outside; the downside is that people can smoke outside, and we had to endure a little noxious fumes a bit. We packed up, I paid today’s M-50 toll on-line, and M confirmed our plan for car return.

Day 10—Tuesday--Flights…not home

Our plan was to leave at 7, return the car (9 am deadline), find some breakfast, and have plenty of time to check in, go through US passport control, and get to our gate way ahead of our 1:35 flight. Well, we woke to an alert that our flight was delayed 2 hours. We left anyway, as we still needed to get the car back; traffic was pretty heavy on the M-50 toward the airport, but nothing like it was headed into Dublin. We got the car returned (at T-2 in the parking garage) before 8:30. When the agent asked how everything was, M mentioned some of the frustrations/inaccuracies with the GPS; so she took that €80 charge off! Didn’t expect that.

We checked in, after a bit of confusion. When we had booked tickets almost a year ago, the return was through JFK, but within a month, that had been changed to go through ORD. But their system still had us on the now non-existent flight to JFK. And the agent didn’t know what M meant by ORD. But it was fixed pretty quickly and given boarding passes. And she gave us a €30 voucher because our plane was still delayed (at least) 2 hours. So we ate breakfast and sat for a long time. M tried to figure out if there was a lounge for AA Platinum folks; we tried the T2 Lounge, but that’s a commercial venture. We went through security which took about 15 minutes; split a sandwich and had some lovely Butler’s dark chocolate truffles. About noon we went quickly through the pre-check TSA stuff; our Global Entry cards put us in a shorter line, but the regular line wasn’t bad. On the now “stateside” was an AA lounge; not very big and had a hard time finding “live” charging stations, but we sat for a while, still scheduled to board 2 hours late at 2:40. We were supposed to have 3 hours in Chicago; now we’d have at most 1. Before 2:30 we went to our gate which was right next to the Lounge; M was tracking “our” plane, and a 3:30 departure looked less and less likely. Sure enough, our flight got pushed back to almost 5 pm, 3.5 hours late. So M got on the phone with AA, booked flights for the next day, and used points for a very expensive but blessedly convenient and available room in the airport Hilton at ORD. I paid this morning’s toll on-line.

So—we did leave about 5; it was a smooth flight on which we didn’t try to sleep. We got to the gate in ORD a few minutes after our scheduled flight had just left for DFW, ate at Chili’s while we waited for update on our luggage (which was, as expected, not off-loaded in ORD, so we hoped it would travel the next day), and walked to the Hilton, where we had a restful night.

(Hmm, the only other time I’ve flown from Dublin was in 2017, also to Chicago-ORD. And that flight was also delayed! Over 2 hours, which meant that I and my students and chaperones all missed our connecting flight, so we ended up being re-booked by AA, but we did make it home on the same day as scheduled.)

Day 11—Wednesday—Flights home

The next day our flights to DFW and from there home were pretty much on time, and our luggage actually arrived before us. So we were home by 4 pm, with our luggage and not that tired. In fact, we may have been more rested at this point than if we’d flown as planned, which would have gotten us to our house about 12:30 am. The jet lag hit us later! Glad to have gone; glad to be home!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 5th, 2019, 10:34 AM
  #13  
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And a few summary thoughts:

Worst things
—M getting sick; some frustrations with the car and its GPS

Expected to be good, were even better—The Irish people

Expected to be bad, weren’t as bad as feared—Roads and traffic and crowds (mostly)

Weather—It was much cooler than I “expected,” but about what was forecast when we checked close to departure, so we packed the right clothes. It rained every day except one, but really rain only interfered with pleasantness of one day.

Hotels—Surprising best—Hibernian Kilkenny. Bit disappointing—Riversedge in Killorglin (size of room and shower, lack of accessible plugs, and shabbiness of furnishings were negatives)

Best foods—The Winding Stair in Dublin; Paris, Texas, pub in Kilkenny; and every breakfast that had smoked salmon

Best views—From the Ring of Kerry, Rock of Cashel, Glendalough, and, of course, the Cliffs of Moher

Wish we hadn’t gone to—No sites disappointed, really; Guinness was too crammed and Trim too wet, but we’re still glad we went

Wish we’d done instead of what we did—Actually, none. Our days were busy without being hectic, there was a bit of flex time built in, and we saw our personal highlights. There are many sites all over Ireland, and even near where we were, that we didn’t have time for, but, given out time and priorities, we chose wisely. The only thing I’d planned that we didn’t get to was the Blennerville Windmill, but, instead, we saw the Loop Head Lighthouse which was probably more scenic.

Good advice we followed—We were glad to have a paper atlas. The GPS and our phones’ GoogleMaps worked almost all the time and were what M mostly used, but having the paper maps was wise.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 8th, 2019, 07:24 AM
  #14  
 
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Thanks for this great trip report texasbookworm! I am marking down some of your highlights! Can't wait to go
girlonthego is offline  
Jul 8th, 2019, 11:08 AM
  #15  
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Thanks, gontheg--I hope something I said helps you enjoy your October trip

I'm working on my "obligatory" (I really love to do them!) digital scrapbooks and reliving our adventures!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 8th, 2019, 03:06 PM
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Great report, Any shopping experience?
ileen is online now  
Jul 8th, 2019, 05:35 PM
  #17  
 
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Great report. I do all my shopping at duty-free so love getting there early. I need to try The Winding Stair. I love the salmon at the Boxty house but need to check out their menu for next trip.
Macross is online now  
Jul 8th, 2019, 06:44 PM
  #18  
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No, ileen, I am not much of a shopper in general; if we have something specific in mind, we will search diligently, but not this trip.

Yes, macross, try The Winding Stair for certain.
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