Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When Irish eyes are smiling...

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This month we took a trip to Ireland.  After Italy, there weren't a lot of other countries that could have topped this one.  There is just something about visiting my "mother-lands" that draws me to these places (France, England).  I knew it was going to be difficult to fit everything in (and we didn't), but my husband promises me that we'll go back :-)

We started out in Dublin, arriving late on a Thursday night.  Our hotel was great--the perfect amount of old-world charm and, of course, our full Irish breakfast.  After breakfast we headed to Trinity College and took a tour and then saw the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the Old Library.  Amazing!  The exhibit on the book is great--lots of information and well-done.  It's in such good condition, too, so it's hard to believe it's actually that old.  We were completely unprepared though for how amazing the Long Room would be!  It was so cool--straight out of a movie.  And guess what?  It is.  It's the Jedi library in Attack of the Clones and Harry Potter's library.  What I couldn't believe looking at the room was that the books are organized by size.  There's no other method.  Amazing!

From the college we walked to the meeting point for our "free" walking tour.  Along the way we bought some fried "potato cakes" which seemed like a great Irish lunch.  Our tour guide was great and had us all over the city with lots of enthusiasm and history.  We were the only Americans in the group and our tour guide made sure to include me as an "Irish-American".  We visited a few pubs (I drank my first Guinness--so what if it was a half-pint?) and had a great dinner.

In the morning we picked up our rental car and drove south to Glendalough.  (Sooo weird driving on the left--we had to make up a song to help us remember!)  There were some nice trails to a couple of pretty lakes and a 6th-century monastic site.  Pretty cool to see.  Next we drove to Kilkenny and saw the castle and grounds.  A shopkeeper gave us a few sightseeing tips and directions and we wandered through town past the sites and to St. Canice's Cathedral (unfortunately closed) and the Black Abbey (largest stained glass window in Ireland).  Unfortunately, we didn't plan ahead to take advantage of our opportunity to have church in English and we arrived 15 minutes late for the Mass.  We decided to not interrupt and walked over to another church.  That church had just started as well--if we'd gone there first, we'd have been in time.  Oh well.  We had another good dinner (Shepherd's pie for my husband) and then drove to our B&B in Knocktopher.  It was a beautiful house and lovely room with a great hostess.

After our third Irish breakfast we hit the road for Blarney.  I hadn't been sure if this was something worth doing, fearing that it was just tourist hype about the stone, but I ended up reading good things.  I'm so glad we went.  The grounds are just gorgeous and walking around in the wooded area is magical.  We both kissed the stone, so expect to see some obvious improvements in our gabbery from here on out ;-)

From there we were off to Dingle.  We drove all around the peninsula taking in the gorgeous coastline and enjoying the countryside.  My husband had visited alone back in 2006 and he remembered some things he'd done so he recommended walking out to a point near the sea.  We didn't have time to get quite as far as he did (and there were warning signs to not go any further--wonder if he just ignored those?), but we had a nice walk before heading back into town for dinner.  I had a delicious dish of bangers and mash and my first full PINT of Guinness!  My bangers were made with the local brew my husband ordered to drink and he had Guinness beef stew so we each had the other one's beer in our food.

We had to get an early start in the morning to get north to Doolin for a cruise to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands (where the chunk Irish fishermen sweaters come from).  We arrived early enough to take the earlier boat and faced some rough seas on the trip.  We had a couple of hours on the island to explore so we visited O'Brien castle and the shipwreck Plassy (as seen on the Irish sitcom Father Ted) and walked along the beach.  On the way back we were taken past the Cliffs of Moher--amazing!--which were the main thing I was looking forward to about the trip.  After the cruise we checked into our B&B and then drove out to the national park at the top of the cliffs.  What amazing views and a great experience.  It was great to go in the late afternoon/early evening too since the sun was on it's way down and giving the cliffs a nice glow (though making our photo-taking a bit more challenging).  We had our final Irish dinner at the pub in town: bacon loin and cabbage for me and fish and chips for my husband.

In the morning I had one last Irish breakfast, but my husband had done enough to his arteries so he went with the French toast--just what he needed.  We took the scenic route back to Dublin, stopping along the way to see Leamaneh Castle, Carron Church, Poulnabrone Dolmen, and Dunguaire Castle.  Still on the hunt for some souvenirs, my hero of a husband drove back into downtown Dublin to complete our mission before we returned the car.  (I finally figured out what was so scary about driving on the left--I was in what I perceived to be the "driver's seat" but I had no control of the car!)

A great trip, but still so much more to see.  Here is what I recommend for the viewing the photos:
1. Click play on the below YouTube video.
2. Then click this link to the Ireland photos.
3. Click play slideshow above and to the left of the pictures.
4.  When the screen comes up, go to options in the upper right corner and move the slider about 3/4 of the way across.  A little indicator should pop up saying "3 sec".  Then just watch.
You'll have nice Irish background music to enjoy :-)

1 comment:

  1. Reading your recap makes me want to go back! And I miss the Irish breakfasts :) Soooo good!


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