I Went To Ireland

August 10, 2005
 
Travelling to Ireland
 
Well – we made it safe and sound to Ireland. Dad, Annette and I left San Jose Tuesday Morning at around 9AM and arrived in Ireland at 10 Wednesday AM. At some point we lost a day, so we are all very tired. The flights were good. The long one from Chicago to Dublin (8 hours) ended up being better than expected, as the plane wasnt very full – so I ended up with no one sitting next to me, which was great. I did however, have Patrick sitting behind me – and at first I thought he was very cute, and by the end, our entire section was ready to pay for him to move to first class. He is a very verbal, active 3 year old – who was excited to take off (when we hadn’t left the ground) and was upset at his Mom (I HATE YOU – at the top of his lungs for a few hours). The 4 kids in front of us were GREAT – and when we asked the dad how he got them to sleep, he jiggled his bottle of Benadryl. Unfortunatley, he didnt have enough for adult doses for those of us stuck near Patrick.
 
The big challenge of the day has been driving and navigating. Both Dad and Annette were very relieved to have me in the car, since I am so good at navigating. Now, anyone that has travelled with me knows that I am so very NOT good at navigating. I get lost in hotels, and have no concept of a map – but consensus is that I am the best of the three of us. If that doesnt scare you – I dont know what will. (Carrie Smith – you stop laughing!!)
 
The roads here are SMALL and you go FAST. I think we have mastered the rotaries – stay high, and go slow – but dont stop – and Annette and I have mastered the… Dad/Honey – you are VERY close to the edge. He is doing a great job at driving, but tends to drift very close to the left edge – which is either brush, dirt or ditches. Needless to say – we were glad to arrive at Cachel today. Cachel is a long village in Ireland – and seems to fit all the other’s we have seen. It has exteremly narrow streets, which means dodging cars and the occasional drive on the sidewalk. We are staying at the Cachel Palace in the Muse Room – its very pretty, and near the Rock of Cachel, which Dennis and Annette are currently walking to view. I chose to stay behind, as I am super tired.
 
I have no idea what the agenda for tommorow is – I think we end up in Waterford, but am not sure. In any case, we made it in one piece, with all of our luggage, and that’s great. I apologize for the poor spelling, and random thoughts – I think the next time I write, I will potentially have had some sleep, so will have more details.
 
Have a great day!!
 
 
August 11, 2005
 
Waterford and Whiskey
 
Good Morning from Blarney, Ireland. This the morning of the 12th, but an update about yesterday. We got to town so late, that the internet cafe was closed.
 
Yesterday was all about Waterford and Whiskey. We started the morning at Cashel Palace, where we had stayed the night. We were in the Muse house, which was interesting. The whole room was covered in red twall. It was interesting in that, half the time it felt like people were watching you – since thats what twall is, landscapes of people and things… The plan was to meet for breakfast at 8:30 and then leave by 9:30. I left my room at 8:30 and headed to breakfast, but no Dad and no Annette. Turns out, they had overslept, and didnt make it to breakfast, until 9 – and when they got there, hadnt packed – AHA!!! Finally, I was the one on time, and packed – so after an “Irish Breakfast” (soft boiled eggs, grilled bacon, sausage, and something that tastes like scrapple) we headed off.
 
The first stop of the day was the Waterford Crystal Factory – it was truly amazing. They take you on a tour of the actual factory, and you can see how the stuff is made. We saw them make chandelier arms, and lips and arms for pitchers. At the chandelier arm stop, we were watching and heard a HUGE crash – turned around to see two of the workers staring at a huge pile of glass. They had dropped and shattered several GIANT plates – whoops!  The guys making the arms looked at us and said – it took us a week to get those plates right… sad, very sad. Anyways – at this place, we got to watch them pull glass out of the super-heater and make it into an arm. They asked for two kids to come up and blow into the rod, to see what it was like to blow glass. So – an 8 year old, and Dennis went up and got to blow glass. Dad was patient enough to allow the little kid go first. Later in the tour, we saw the QA section and watched them smatch glass after glass after glass because they werent perfect. The workers train from 5 – 10 years to be master craftsmen, and it shows. We later saw the cutting and engraving sections – its an amzing art. At the end we ended up in the Gallery, where we got to look and choose to purchase some Waterford.  It was amazing to see all the finished product, after seeing it all being made. I made a small purchase or two – because after comign all this way, how could I not… I love what I got, and will have to post it to the blog, once I take pictures of it.
 
We skipped lunch so we could continue on down the road. This proved to be an unwise choice.
 
The second stop of the day was the Old Midleton Whiskey Distillery. Annette sweet talked teh lady into letting us join the tour that was leaving as we arrived, and we were able to walk through a somewhat lame tour of the Distillery. However, it was intersting to see things like a 25 foot diameter water wheel, and to learn the difference between Scotch and Irish Whiskey. Scotch has a smokey taste, where as Irish does not. At the end of the tour, we each recieved a glass of Whiskey to drink. A “toot” to be exact. WOW – what a strong substance. Annette and I each had a tiny sip, and were done. Where was Dennis you ask… Well… The tour guide at the end, asked for 4 volutneers to help taste test Whiskey – my dads hand was the first up, even when the lady was asking for female volunteers. He got to taste 8 different whiskeys and at the end got a glass of his favorite. He also got a certificate that shows he is an official Whiskey taster. All in all, a fun trip. The gift shop was great – with lots of differne things to look at.
 
We drove (more on driving later) to our B&B – which was nice. The family that runs it were very nice, and welcoming. The rooms were nice – but odd. We opened the windows that looked onto the families back yard, which was a little odd – and the water pressure int he showers was GREAT – but the temp was cold… so it made for an interesing and quick shower expierence. We ate last night at the Blarney Castle Hotel – and had Irish Stew – with brown soda bread – very delicious!!
 
Driving continues to be a challenge and the most stressful part of the trip. We did well in the morning – the roads were wide, and had shoulders. We cant seem to master the speedlimit. Dad seems to consistnetly be 10 – 15 KM short of the speed limit, when it is fast, and speeding during the slow sections. We have continued to navigate through roundabouts – sometimes well, sometimes scarily. For those of you wondering, as in the US, Dennis is doing fabulosly at tailgating. A few times I have literally let out a little yelp, as I see the back end of the car in front us stop – and us not. The biggest challenge so far has been driving in Blarney, the roads are TINY, and theres not a lot of wiggle room. We very nearly took off our sideview mirrors a couple of times. I’m sure today will be better – or at least I am hoping.
 
Currently, I am writing from the Kopi Internet Cafe in Blarney. Its across the green from the Castle, next to the Butchery. I chose not to climb to the top of the Castle and kiss the Blarney stone, so I am enjoying the local scenery.
 
I hope to drop another line tonight – but it will depend on how the day goes.
 
Have a great day, ttyl –
 
Alison
 
 
August 12 and August 13
 
The last two days have been two full days of driving – which has been alternatly hair raising and interesting. Dennis has gotten somewhat better at maneuvering the vehicle.. the Silver Bullet we now call it, through the streets of Ireland. The Silver Bullet was very nearly short a side view mirror a couple of times, until I realized that it pulled in, and that at least made it not as painful!
 
Yesterday we drove from Blarney to Ballybunion via the Ring of Kerry. We left at around 11 and got to our timeshare at 7pm. The Ring of Kerry is beautiful, very green and lots of things to see. It is also very windy. We discovered prior to entering the ring that the busses “coaches” got anti-clockwise through the ring. We were going clockwise, which meant alot of pulling over to the very far left and hope that the coaches didnt run us off into the road.  We did rather well the whole time, and didnt even manage to yell at each other. Although it was close a couple of times. After exiting the Ring of Kerry we continued to drive and drive and drive. At some point, we drove through a town having a fair – and while we all escaped safely, I cant say the same for a couple of roadside blockades, which toppled over as we drove over them. Ditto for about 20 feet of curb – if we manage to get out of Ireland with out a flat – I’ll be amazed.
 
We arrived in Ballybunion – most noted, by the golf course that Bill Clinton likes – around 7, and had a delicous dinner at the Strand Restaurant – which is no where near the Strand. I had salmon encroute – which was very good. The B&B we stayed at was interesting, and I liked it quite a bit. This morning we had another “Irish Breakfast” and headed out.
 
Today we drove to Ootergarten where our Condo is. We drove via the Cliffs of Moeher – which you actually have to hike to inorder to see. They are comporable to Ragged Point, near San Simeon. HOwever, upon saying this to several Irelanders, they looked ready to revoke our passports and send us home. The hike to view the Cliffs is about 1/2 mile in and 1/2 mile out – a good portion uphill. We had a good time, and watched people wander about – ignoring the DANGER signs and wandering down the cliffs… It was scary.
 
We arrived at our Condo today – the Country Cottages of Connemara…. and truly – it is country. Its about 7 KM outside of the nearest town and a couple of miles off the road. The cottage is cute, and very small – but will be nice. Its white stucco, with a thatched roof. It has a cooker, and a washer, and a disher, and a chiller, and a kettle – an automatic one, at that. It also has a TV with over 200 channels – whcih combined with the cottage, creates an odd juxtoposition of life. The cottage itself was built in the late 80’s, and they are talking about levleing them and rebuilding. I am currently sitting in Archers Pizzaria at the bar typing away at the computer. D/A are wandering around while we wait for a restaurant to open, so that we can scarf down a dinner and go buy groceries.
 
Finally, I wanted to be sure and mention the pastures, and livestock that we pass. The pastures and fences here are all stone, and are covered in overgrown grass and shrubs. They seem to be sectioned off in 2 acre parcels, and most contain cows. The dairy cows are very healthy and well fed, and not thin at all. We see cows everywhere – front yhards, backyards, pastures – everywhere. Its quite impressive to see this from the air – as the stone fences and shrubs make it look somewhat like a patchwork quilt. The fences are all stacked stone – about 3 feet high – which is quite amazing, I originally thought that they were old, but today saw a bunch of fencers who were refencing thier propety the same way!
 
In anycase, thats about it for today. MOre later – as the next 6 days will provide daytrips and I dont know what else….
 
Thanks,
Alison
 
 
August 14, 2005
 
Today was a day off, to rest and relax and get ready for a full 4 days of day trip. We all enjoyed watching TV last night and working our way through our assorted books. Annette is reading a history of Ireland that is not so much a history, but a story with a lot of historical facts. Dad has been reading a few things – most recently a James Patterson, and I having finished my two “fun” books have been working my way through Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins. A friend reccomended it – or rather the author – and wow was it a weird book.
 
In any case, we spent the day at the cottage reading and relaxing. Annette and I did laundry for HOURS – and Dad held down the recliner. Later, they went for a walk with the dog – and I held down the reliner, while I foreced myself through my book. Dad and Annette went for a couple mile walk this afternoon – taking pictures of the Quiet Man Bridg4e and the local farm animals. They went with thier dog… Princess. Princess met us as we drove in last night and has stationed herself at our cottage since then. She is a small version of Fifty but has a pointy nose and doesnt bark. She sits in our front cement, near the plastic table and watches us do stuff. Her daily dog chores including, chasing the cows, nipping at the sheep and escorting us to and from where ever it is we are to and fromming.
 
On the walk, Dad and Annette ended up picking up a huge amount of berries from the local bushes, and Annette is going to make Berry Crisp tonight, so that should be good. We are hoping to figure out how to use the cooker, as it has alot of switches and not many make sense. We are also going to attempt to build a fire. We have a good fireplace, but are a little concerned about building and maintaing a fire made out of Peat and Coal. What will it smell like? How hot will it burn? Will it be smokey? We arent sure. So, instead we have been using the “centreal air and heat” which is really radiatior heating. After living in Seattle for a bit, I am used to it -but the folks are still trying to figure out how it works, and why you hear water – etc. Kinda funny.
 
Tommorow we are going into Rounhose and Clifden – about a 70 mile or so roundtrip, according to the Holiday Itenirary provided by the man who runs the cottages. Later in the week we are going to see Kylemore Abbey and then into Galway to visit the Royal Tara and Galway Crystal shops – should be interesting. All I know is another day of tight windy roads, with no shoulder, and speed limits of 100KM an hour – clearly make for good times.
 
I think thats about it right now – Dad and Annette are wandering through the store to find a Guiness Hat, and flour – the local grocery is a bit challenging. You have to either bring or buy your grocery bags… they arent included… which was a challenge last night.
 
Have a good Sunday everyone…
 
Alison
 
 
Monday August 15, 2005
 
I am writing from the Rounhouse Cafe in Rounhouse Ireland. Today we took a day trip to visit a couple of places. Dad and Annette are sitting in the bar next door waiting for our food to come, so I thought I woul drop in here and drop a note.
 
This morning we had a non-irish breakfast, and enjoyed our coffee while watching the dog and the sheep in the front yard. There were 5 or 6 rams running around our yard – all painted with red stripes. They were quite entertaining. We also watched the cows do cow-gymastics for a while.
 
We loaded into the Silver Bullet and drove into Clifden, to do some looking and shopping. Clifden is a good sized city, but nothing spectacular. We shopped around and looked at some delicous pastries, and then had a snack of a scone and coffee at a little shop. We then headed to Rounstone.
 
Rounstone is where they make these drums. They are like giant tamborines, but with out the jangly things. They are pretty cool and we got to watch them be made.
 
I am going to be very glad to get back to our thatched roof cottage – as I hate the car and hate Irish Roads… its scary.
 
On the fire front – the peat and coal fire was great. Dennis wanted to bring back coal on the plane, but seeing as it is a combustible product – not such a smart plan. So instead we are gong to bring Peat with us – should be fun.
 
Thats really it for now, so I will update more tommorow.
 
Have a  great Monday
 
 
August 16, 2005
 
IT’S SUNNY!!! YAY!!!
 
Annette and I are celebrating by wearing capri’s and by not taking jackets with us! Whoop Whoop! The weather here has been nice, but not hot. Its primarily overcast, with the occasional rain. It’s also been VERY windy. We all have jackets and sweaters – but I was so excited to see the SUN when I woke up this morning.
 
We spent the morning being lazy. We drank coffee and read books, and generally just were quite. Well – Dad and I were quiet. Annette had enough quiet after about 20 minutes, so she did a couple of loads of laundry, went for a walk, talked to the chatty guy that runs the place, played with the dog, and wrote postcards. Dennis and I spent the same amount of time in our pajamas, reading our book and watching Dr. Phil.
 
This afternoon we headed into town to have lunch, and shop – and then go to the Connemara Marble Factory. We lunched at the Murphy’s bar and had an actual lunch, at very close to lunch time. We had panini sandwhiches and salad, which was great – because it was actual lunch food – and not “bar food”. ***SIDENOTE: Bar food has been the staple of our diet, and includes french fries, fried items, and the occasional soup. Tasty the first few times, not so much at this point in the vacation. ***
 
Afterlunch, we headed to the Connemara Marble Factory, which is primairly a giftshop. We wandered around and watched a young kid make shamrocks out of marble, and then headed out. Back in our little town of Ooutergard, we spent a few minutes in a big gift shop looking at stuff, and then went our seperate ways. I am currently at Archers, my favorite Internet Cafe, and they are grocery shopping. We remembered a bag this time, so thats good. We are useing the striped tote I borrowed from Carrie.  Tonight we are having spagghetti, bread and salad – with Berry Cobbler.. all homemade, which is nice.
 
(I have to interrupt my little transmission, by describing whats happening behind me. There are two little red head kids, running around like crazy in the pizza store, pretending that the big box is a boat, and that one of the others is a pirate – they are VERY cute. The wait staff here is very good with them, and they have been so well behaved at being boys, they are now allowed to sweep the floors with the big broom – big fun for those little boys….)
 
I wanted to give a brief update on Peat and the Dog. The dog we have found out is a farm dog that belongs to the ownders of the farm two houses down. The Host of the Condos calls her Bonnie, and we call her Princess – and shes very cute. We think she is a Border Collie, and Annette is going to be very sad to say good bye. Finally – we have had much success with our Peat and Coal fires. The house now has a decicdedly earthly smell, but we are combatting that with a Yankee Candle – Clean Cotton, that changes the scent into a clean earthy smell. Its an odd combinatation.
 
Thats about all for today, tommorow we are going to Galway, to see the Crystal Factory and the Royal Tara China Shop. That should be fun, as when we drove out to the village we went through Galway and all its roundabouts… should be… stressful.
 
Have a great… Tuesday?
 
Alison
 
August 17 and 18, 2005
 
So much for sun!!
 
Yesterday, it rained from the moment we woke up until past when we all went to bed. It was MISIERABLE. Everywhere we turned there was water. The one cool thing is that the hills came alive during the rain. The hill that is out of the living room window had 4 gullys in it, which produced mini-waterfalls, it was amazing to look at and very cool to listen too. We were semi-prepared for the weather, Dad had a raincoat, I had a fleece and Annette had her blue umbrella. The umbrella was a goodthought, but kept shaking out on us, and didnt stay up so well.
 
We spent the majority of the rainy day in the car, and headed in to Galway City. The drive in wasnt too horrid, as the rain kept the majority of the cars off the roads. The Silver Bullet did a nice job in the rain, and we had fun driving through puddles – sometimes making splashes bigger than our car!!
 
The first stop was the Royal Tara Factory Shop. The Royal Tara factory closed a year ago, but are currently producing a couple of patterns (Shamrock and Stone) in a limited fashion. The store was nice sized and not crowded, so we were able tospend quite a lot of time inspecting each and every item. Alot of it was half price, or 20% off, so I purchased myself a cute little teapot, its in the White Diamond pattern so as you can imagine its… white. Very cute and very simple.
 
We got alot of our questions answered from teh nice girl who wa working there. First, the sheep are painted different colors not to mark them for thier usage – market, breeding, etc (My thought) – but to mark who owns them (Annettes thought). We also figured out that the dog is a Border Collie, and that Irish Roads are less scary than American freeways… that was the girls opinion, anyone in the Silver Bullet, watching foliage hit the car, as trucks whizz by… would disagree.
 
The next stop was the Galway Crystal Factory. There is big dissention in the ranks between Galway and Waterford Crystals.. They look similiar, but I think Waterford is better. Its also significianly more expensive. We spent a few minutes at that shop – Dennis and Annette in the shop, I hid in the coffee shop and sucked down coffee… I needed some. We ended the day by stopping at the Cannamara Candle Shop on the way home, and had a nice chat with an Irish lady and her husband. He is the candlemaker and as it happens lived in Lompoc (Lom-pock) for awhile working in a “\s\lkdufpoiu23”. (I gave up figuring out what he was saying after I had him repeat it 4 times. I just went with the “Oh yes, of course”) We had ag reat dinner of Haddock and Rice – our second home made meal – it was very tasty.
 
This morning we woke up and it was beautiful – sunny, and gorgeous – very green!! We had a nice breakfast. We are trying to eat everything we bought, so for breakfast I had a PBJ sandwich and string cheese. (For those of you wondering, NO we have not had to pack sandwiches for lunch on our daytrips. Close one day, but we evaded. We have however fully stocked our “condo” with sugar, salt, pepper and little butters that are on the dinner/lunch tables when you sit down.)
 
We headed to Kylemore Abbey today. Kylemore Abbey is a working Benedictine Abbey, that houses a whole herd of nuns, as well as a priviate school for boarders and local residents. Its a huge stone building, that was built in the  1880’s. Its an architectual beauty and teh interior is gorgeous. It has granite pillars and beautiful wood floors. We saw several rooms and spent alot of time wandering through the castle.  We then hopped a mini-bus for the “Walled Garden”.
 
The “Walled Garden” felt to me like what the garden in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett should look like. I felt like I had discovered a secret location, that no one else knew about. Its acres of beautifully landscaped garden. It has a creek and grass, it has paths and trees. Theres a whole section of edible items, flowers, trees. I really am struggling with how best to discribe it. All in all, I dont think I’ve seen anything more beautiful. It had every flower in it, all sorts of fruit trees. It had banks and secret benches, and a wishing well.  It had a green house for growing flowers, and all sorts of little secreted away areas. It is one of the best parts of the this whole vacation – it was gorgeus. I took several pictures – which is unusal for me, but it was worth it.
 
Finally, we had lunch in the local restaurant – which turned out to be “cafeteria-style”. Annette and I were shocked we were allowed to eat there. Earlier in the trip Dennis refused, yes REFUSED, to eat in a cafeteria style place. The beautiful view, and lakeside table, along with the gorgeous giftshop didnt matter, he just “WASNT going to eat there.” Did I talk about this before – probably not, I was too irratated. In any case, we enjoyed a great lunch of baked potatoes, and headed back to the Cottage.
 
We are in town now, they are grocery shopping while I am hiding in the internet cafe. I tend not to participate in teh grocery shopping – as I dont understand the logic. We do an awful lot of staring at different brands of things that are priced identically, trying to choose – and frankly I just dont get it, so I hide. I have to meet them there in 4 minutes – not any earlier, and certainly not any later, so I must go.
 
We leave on Saturday – so I might give one last little update tommorow, but probably not until Sunday. We are headed into Shannon to stay at a B&B tommorow, to avoid a long drive to the airport. So wish us luck as we attemp to navigage more roundabouts, tight roads, and a big city in the Silver Bullet.
 
Have a day!!
 
Alison

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