Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 14: Dingle Peninsula

It is now May 19th.  We got a good night's sleep in our attic room in Cork after a fine evening at the pub listening to a fantastic trad trio.  It's time to visit The Dingle Peninsula.

Our day begins at the petrol station where you pay after you fill your car.  It is refreshing to be trusted.  We didn't have breakfast.  We chose the pub over grocery shopping.  I grab a couple of custards and an apple and a pear while I'm paying for the petrol.  We eat the custard in the car before leaving the parking lot because I can't drive a stick and eat custard at the same time.  Our review of the custard: not our favorite.  The yogurt we had been having was fantastic, but this wasn't that great.  That's ok, at least we had something before heading out.

We got stuck driving behind some slow folks, and it began to rain, and we began to get hungry, so I stopped at the first thing I came to, Sammy's in Inse.  This place is on the beach.  There were parasurfers out in this blustery weather which, I guess, makes good waves for them.  We went in and had a breakfast, or fry.  And off we went again.

Dunbeg Fort was on the edge of the world with lots of warning signs about the cliff's danger.  The Iron Age stacked stone buildings were many.
Dunbeg Fort.
 Ceann Sleive (Slea Head) beehive hut was next.  On the way up the trail, we saw what appeared to be a sheep having a troubled labor.  Men were standing around her and she was distressed.  That's all we could figure, but who knows.  Poor sheepy.
Slea Head beehive hut.
 We hiked quite a hike to make it to the western most point of Ireland, Dunmore Head.  When we reached the point, both high and west, there was a guard there to make sure no one messed up the site.  This site was to be used for the Star Wars filming next week.  He took our photo for us.
Dunmore Head and the Blasket Islands.
Ogham stone on Dunmore Head.
 Gallarus Oratory appears to be the original tiny house.  It's symmetrical, cute, tidy and efficient with one door and one window.
Gallarus Oratory.
 Riasc is an entire monastic site with walls and connected spaces dating to early Medieval times. I find it fascinating that this stone still exists in this condition and it's just sitting out here.
Riasc Stone.
 We stopped for a tour of the brewery and a pint.  Not a bad thing at all.
Dingle Brewing self-guided tour.
 We asked the man at the desk at Crean's for a restaurant recommendation and he sent us to the Marina Inn.  We both had this toasted bread with pesto sauce and goat cheese.  It was FANTASTIC.
Marina Inn -YUM!
To be continued!!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 13: The Road to Cork

This is a long day, so fasten your safety belts and get ready!  We left our BnB in Kilmaine the same time Monica was heading out to take her son to school.  We chose a route that would take us through Limerick and off we went.  

First, Kilmacduadh, a 7th century (first established) monastic site.  Glebe house is part of this site, but not pictured here.  The house has been recently reconstructed and is locked with big new doors.  

 Onward to St. Minchin's Church and graveyard.
St. Minchin's Church, Co. Limerick.
 On to Limerick City.  We parked, paid the meter and went toward King John's Castle.
This mural speaks to me.  Hello Kitty, ice cream.  Practically a portrait of my soulmate!
 It's time for lunch.  We had such good luck with museum and historic site cafes, that we decided to check in on this one at King John's Castle.  We were once again not disappointed.  Delicious "bacon" and brie toasted sandwich with a lovely quinoa salad.  Also, my favorite soda!
Thank you, King John!
 It rained while we were eating, but kindly stopped for us to go out onto the site.  This castle showed the ruins of daily life of ordinary people as well.  They also incorporated re-enactors. It's easy to forget that castles were surrounded by ordinary life as well.
King John's Castle, Limerick.
Favorite part: The view of Limerick from the top of King John's Castle!
 In Limerick, we found a site where they had discovered and were excavating a medieval wall.  Pictures couldn't do it justice, it's only a wall, but the excavation could find more and at the very least it's fascinating to know that remains from hundreds of years ago are being dug up right here in a major city!

Next destination: St. Mary's Cathedral.  We arrived to find a concert about to start.  A concert?  Just a short 45 minute lunch time concert.  Free.  We went in and took a seat.  A master's Organ student from Yale was touring Europe.  This lunchtime concert was five pieces long and as soon as I saw the works, I knew I would be giggling.  He starts with Bach, good old classic Baroque Bach.  Everyone will love that.  And we move into weirder and weirder more and more modern pieces.  If I had planned this, I would end with a short Back piece to leave everyone on a happy note, but no, not this guy.  He left me with my head tilting.  Note to graduate performance students:  Begin and end recitals with people pleasers.  Just do it.  It seems cheap, I know, but DO IT!

St. Mary's - where superstition and legend meets religion.
Inside St. Mary's was labeled museum style. 
On display in St. Mary's.
 We saw St. Mary's CHURCH as well.  And also St. John's both big and small.  We stopped by Holy Cross cemetery in Charleville and Buttevont.  Then we came to the highlight of my day, Ballybeg Friary.

The place had several ruins and walls and cows were in the fields.  This short tower thing stood in the field past the wall.  Gwyndolyn took off over the wall and went inside the sort tower.  Whe she didn't come out immediately, I went over the wall after her.  Maybe it was a portal to another time and dimension!
Short tower at Ballybeg.
 I went in and found this:
The short tower is a "dovecot" where monks would keep doves.  It's domed at the top with an opening for the birds to come and go.
The craftsmanship of this dovecot seems spectacular to me.  And here it is in a field just sitting there. No door keeper, no gate, just here with the cows.  This was a special find to me and I'm glad Gwyndolyn didn't get swept off to another dimension permanently.

Finally, on to Limerick where we went in search of our host home.  GPS was tricky on this one and if I knew more about the city, I don't think we would have had problems, but addresses in Ireland are not what we are used to in the States.  We did eventually find it and we parked and we walked to very local pub.  We were ready for dinner, but mostly in need of a toilet.  There was no dinner to be found here, but we had a pint and borrowed the facilities before going back to our host home.

Our first meeting with our hostess was....  interesting.  She treated us like 15 year olds who were traveling without our parents.  She showed us up to the attic room and immediately showed us the back of the door where the rules were.  "Be sure to read the rules.  I expect everyone to follow them." Well, ok then.  On AirBnB, guests have to sign off that they read the rules that hosts post online in order to make a reservation.  The TWO PAGES typed on the back of the door were most definitely not on the AirBnB listing.  The rules were insanely pointed and negatively written.  If they had been on AirBnB, I would not have chosen this place.  We worried about it for about 10 seconds and decided worry wasn't worth it.  We asked our hostess for a pub recommendation and she sent us to The Oliver Plunkett. We decided to hike the hilly city.  I am glad we did.

Here's some video of our evening:

On our way home, I was in love with the world.  I want these flowers on my property!
These purple flowers grew out of everywhere.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


I've embraced a morning routine of having a cup of coffee, then taking a 1.6 mile walk, then doing an hour of yard work before having breakfast.  All of this works wonderfully if I start at 7 with coffee, 7:45 walk, 8:15 water break, 8:30 yard work, 9:30 breakfast.  Perfect except for one thing.  The last ten minutes of the walk have the sun blazing in my face.  There are solutions to this problem.  Here they are:

Walk in the evening.

Well, I do.  I walk 1.6 miles in the morning and .8 in the evening.  The thing about the evening is I get lazy.  I can make a very convincing excuse in the evening why I should only do the short walk.

To be fair, this photo is Aveeno Baby SPF 55.  This is THE WORST sunscreen I have ever used and went into the garbage.  My Coppertone Sheer works somewhat better, but still adds to the sting that is sweat running into my eyes.  Sunscreen, hard work, and 95% humidity really don't mix.

Big floppy hat.

If I'm going to use a hat to shade my face, it has to be a big one because the sun is literally directly head on in my face.  I got one at the store for $3.99 and I really like it, thin & light, but it catches every breeze meaning I have to hold it, and it makes my head hot.  I already sweat so much through my scalp that a hat is just really uncomfortable.  I plan to use it while riding the lawnmower.

Get up before sunrise.

This was my favorite of the solutions.  Get up earlier.  Sure!  Get more done.  It's cooler and actually almost pleasant outside.  Sounds great.  I forgot one thing.  I am not a morning person.  I can be for a couple of days if I need to be, but ongoing actually hurts me.  The first day was great.  The second day, ok.  The third day, mild head ache and had to lie down after yard work which lead to a nap which defeated the entire purpose of getting up early.  The fourth day, worse headache, shortened yard work and took a nap.  The fifth day, still hoping I could get used to it, total headache, shortened yard work and napped.  Also this makes me want to quit my routine all together and that's not good.  Early morning is done.  No more of that.

After my nap, I will come up with a better plan for tomorrow.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 12: Galway

Today is a day past halfway and that means we needed to do laundry.  Back in Dublin, we saw a cute laundromat and thought nothing more about it until today.  I looked up several in Galway and tried to get close to where we wanted to see things.  We went straight to the first one and it was a drop off kind.  We went to the second and the same.  It was now time to find a toilet, so we went straight for McDonald's.  Useful for something!  I asked the young man at the counter if he could direct us to a self service laundry place and he looked at me as if I had asked for a spaceship dealership.  There you have it.  As far as I can tell, there is exactly one self-service laundry place in Ireland and it's in Dublin.  We chose a place that was near the McDonald's and easy to get to after our day.  For the non-Americans reading this, full service laundry is catching on, but feels more like a luxury even though it's really not that expensive in most places.  Self service laundromats (or of course, in your home) is the normal thing.  We were actually a bit nervous about leaving our things...  that's how not used to this we are.

Away we went into Galway.
Galway Cathedral.  I would like one or a dozen of these fish knockers.
The Latin Quarter.  Shopping, eating, and busking.
Pick it up or you will pay for it.  Irish is so threatening.
Lynch's Castle. What is going on here? 
St. Nicholas Church.
We hiked the city, we enjoyed beers and lunch at the King's Head Pub, we walked along the bay, and then we picked up the laundry and made it back to our host home to prepare for moving on to Cork in the morning!

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Day 11: Clonmacnoise

It's May 16th and we are to the half-way point in the trip.  Our main destination is Clonmacnoise.  We stopped off at a couple of cemeteries on the way, but today, we mostly kept to the mission.  Clonmacnoise is where the "high crosses" live.  They have brought those stone works of art inside where they can preserve what is left of them.  The museum space is beautiful with great explanations of the symbolism.  On the grounds, replicas of the original high crosses stand where the originals stood.  Throughout Ireland, you will notice quickly that stone carvings are erased by the rain until nothing but a smooth gravestone is left.  Moving the originals indoors like they did was really the only smart thing to do.

The grounds are vast with may ruin buildings, several cemeteries, and more than enough people.
Tower at Clonmacnoise.  Not only does the rain break down the stone, these adorable flowers do too.
Clanmacnoise ruins and cemetery.
 Our next stop was a little brown side on the side of the road in front to a castle.  There was enough space for me to pull over, so I did.  We went up to the gates that were mostly closed, but unlocked and we could see a couple of people inside.  A small dog came out to greet us and a woman came out soon after.  The castle had just been bought and they were fixing it up for something.  She allowed us to take a photo from the gate, but that was all we could get.
Clonony Castle.  Privately owned...  soon to be a ?????
The real next destination was Birr Castle and telescope.  The castle is a private residence. Originally 1170, but history had it's way with it.  Now considered mostly late 17th century.
Birr Castle not open to the public.
The real draw of this place is the telescope.  In the museum area, you can play with gadgets to show you how it moves and operates.  Outside you can take a look at the reconstruction - the original was built in 1845 which at the time was the biggest telescope in the world.  Apparently the family had many scientists throughout history.  The whole place was beautiful and very interesting.
Replica of the 1845 telescope that reigned largest in the world until 1917!
 Pay attention, travelers, this next place is super cool!  St. Brendan's Cathedral at Clonfert.  It's said that St. Brendan was buried on the grounds around 584.  The small church that exists there now is full of the most interesting carvings.
Doorway dating from 1200.
Mermaid! St. Brendan is known for his journeys on the sea.  Maybe this mermaid is part of that legacy.
The gate said "St. Brendan's Tree" but then we see this.  Maybe someone has angered St. Brendan!
St. Brendan's was one of my favorite places.  I wanted to stay and clean up the place.  Maybe that should happen some day....  or maybe that would draw too many visitors' dirty hands. 

I can't remember is Athenry Priory was an on-purpose destination or an accident, but that was next!  In any case, we went up to it, but it was all locked up.  A couple of goth kids with their ferocious chihuahua were walking around and we asked them about it.  The girl told us that the main keeper had recently died.  He was the one who gave tours and unlocked the place.  They hadn't found a new keeper.  There are some amazing things inside including some sort of peach colored egg that we could barely see through the high windows.  
Athenry Priory.  Closed for the time.
 Our final destination was supposed to be the Turoe Stone.  We drove straight there and did find the Turoe Pet Farm which should be within spitting distance of the stone.  We drove in a couple of circles before pulling up to the front of a home where a family was doing yard work.  The man came up and asked us if we were looking for the stone.  Ha!  He sees this plenty.  He told us that the people in the area had only been told that the stone had been taken away for cleaning and restoration work and possibly to have a case made for it so that it doesn't wear away any more.  It had grown black in the last three years.  See?  People's grubby hands.  Even if they're clean, there is still natural oils that help deteriorate stone.  Don't TOUCH stuff!

We told him our next plan was food and asked if he could make any area recommendations.  He was quite pleased to tell us to go to the New Park Inn in Athenry.  He gave us directions, "Go down here and take a left and then when you get WhiteBuilding take a right.  And then a few miles this way until you come to SomeOtherPlace.  Then you finally make a turn there and you can't miss it!"  Luckily, I had GPS!  We made a turn down the road before consulting the GPS because I didn't want him to think we didn't trust his directions.
Prawn and smoked salmon salad with a guinness blocking the sun.
Lesson here: Strangers with enthusiastic restaurant recommendations know what they're talking about!  We ate very well.

To be continued!!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Day 10: Cong

At this point, day 10, we are feeling very lucky to have had absolutely perfect weather.  We have been able to go to place after place, stop the car, check things out, hop back into the car for 10 hours a day.  Today is no different.  
Kilmaine graveyard...  might as well be a postcard.

Kill Abbey which we went to strictly for the name, but found a friend!
On to Cong!  The town is famous for its role in the movie The Quiet Man.
Famous Quiet Man cottage.
The town is full of references to the movie.  We went into a pub for lunch with such a reference.  Everyone was very nice, but we waited for EVVVVVER to get our food.  It was a lovely little place and the staff was trying to accommodate more people than I think they could handle.  We are used to taking our time in our travels, but this one was why I avoid touristy things!

The abbey ruins in Cong are extensive and the grounds are gorgeous and lead into a park with hiking trails.  We just kept going...  and going....
Cong Abbey
 The Monk's fishing hut in this scenic location was the first point of interest past the abbey.
Fisherman's hut at Cong Abbey.
Then you are on hiking trails with caves and a tower ruin.  We carefully descended into the mouth of a cave.  It was absolutely pitch black in the other direction which was a bit unnerving so we didn't stay long.

STEEP steps down to the cave.
 Glebe Stone Circle was next and our GPS led us directly there.  There is a tiny sign and we were told you could park in front of the next house and just walk to the circle.  At first we couldn't figure out how that would be possible....  well, we CAREFULLY walked up the narrow road as close to the rock wall as possible and found right next to the sign, a stone step-through.  These are very common, but nearly invisible as you're driving by.
The sign and step-through.  How did we miss that?  Ha!
Glebe Stone Circle.
 Back in Kilmaine we decided to go for "takeaway."  We see signs everywhere and why not!  I don't need to name the place, it seems they are all like this...  and that is, not good.  Maybe some things are and we chose poorly.  Generally, specials are a good bet.  We chose the special which was a bacon burger with a side of curry chips.  The chips with curry sauce on them was pretty good...  the burger just wasn't.  BUT!  I had one of my favorite things!

These have to be available somewhere in the US.
 As we went home, we stopped by Kilmolara Cemetery.  And a funny thing happened...  watch the video :-)
Sun setting on another gorgeous day!

To be continued!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Day 9: Cliffs of Moher agus The Burren

Looking up into the tower.
Claregalway Frairy.  It's history begins in 1252.
We started the day stopping off at Claregalway Franciscan Friary.  In the northern area of Ireland, you sort of have to seek out ruins and cemeteries.  In the west, the cemeteries and ruins find you.

Dunguaire Castle is one with an admission fee to look around inside and we opted not to.  It's a 16th Century castle which means that it's not as old as we think is worthy of our dollars!  Ha!  13th?  We'd pay for that.

My notes and photos show that we stopped at another cemetery and took a photo of an unidentified ruin tower thingy.  With the vast number of them all over, you almost forget they're there.... almost.

Not sure if this guy was so evil nothing will grow or if his relatives suspected he would try to return as a zombie and so they made it as difficult as possible planting horrible briars.
We set the GPS to "The Burren."  Whenever I say we set the GPS to something, this should be a red flag that something is about to go horribly wrong.  If I said, "We made our way to XYZ place," you can assume we actually got there without confusion.  So, the GPS is set.  And the roads get tinier and windier.  The country-side begins showing signs of burren territory, so we know we are at least still in Ireland, but there are no actual SIGNS that say anything about where we are headed.  I consider trying to locate another route or even a different specific destination, but decide to see where the GPS thinks we should go.  And tinier and bumpier and less maintained the roads become.  And then, "You have arrived" is spoken and WOAH!  We did in fact arrive.  We did not arrive at the main tourist office for the Burren, but instead, a major trailhead.  This suited me just fine.  There were very few people, only 4 cars were parked along side where we also parked.  We welcomed ourselves and began to walk out into THE Burren.
Lots and lots of rock.  Lots.

Thank you, CuckooPalace.com for this image.
Do you know what this sounds like?  I bet you do.  Of course, it's called a Cuckoo Clock based on the sound it makes.  A Cuckoo bird....  a European Cuckoo bird sounds EXACTLY like the clock that's named after it.  (An American Cuckoo does not).  We heard a Cuckoo clock.  Coo-coo.  Coo-coo.  Woah, it couldn't be EXACTLY the same. Woody Woodpecker is modeled after a Pileated Woodpecker and has a laugh that resembles the real bird, but not EXACTLY.  A group of four British people happened upon us just as I was clearly trying to decide if that was real or not.  Being Brits, they were naturally also birders, and they confirmed the sound.  They said, "You're lucky enough to hear that.  You won't see it; they're very secretive."  Oh well, I was quite happy enough to hear it.  We continued taking photos of the rocky landscape.  We heard a much closer "coo-coo" and then the shape of a cuckoo-type creature fly across the sky.  I waited to see if it would sound in the area it flew to, and sure enough!  We SAW the unseeable Cuckoo!  As we were leaving, the British birders were by their car and I told them about the sighting and asked them about another bird.  They said we were very very lucky.  Most British birders never get to see one ever.  The other bird, in case you're wondering, was a bird that would chatter, chatter, chatter and go higher, higher, higher in the sky never shutting up the whole way up.  Because the bugger flies so high up, it's hard to get a very good look at his colors for identification.  They told me that was definitely a "Sky Lark."  Makes perfect sense.
Linane's fantastic Lamb Stew.
We made our way toward lunch (see no GPS issues).  Linane's Pub had a couple of patrons, so I ducked in and ask if he had lunch available.  Yes, he did!  I had an unbelievably good lamb stew with so much tasty wee lamby that it would have been equivalent to a really big steak.  Anyone interested in purchasing a pub?  The owner, bar tender let us know he was looking to sell it soon.  I don't think he advertises to all of his customers, but Gwyndolyn likes to talk to everyone about how she might stay in Ireland.  He offered she could buy this pub!

The Cliffs of Moher are next on the agenda.  I went here 11 years ago.  It was lovely.  There were very few people and there was a guy right up on the path near the cliff viewing area making necklaces which I bought.  I can't tell you whether that crafter or 500 crafters are up in that area now.  There were loads of people and the car park now charges three fingers and your first born child which neither Gwyndolyn nor I have.  Also, the thing about "THE CLIFFS OF MOHER" is this: if you've seen one postcard, you have SEEN IT.  Well, unless you go to the little known car park down the road a way.  We were told of this fabled place and I was interested in finding it for two reasons.  First, I am cheap...  or frugal as is a little more PC to say.  Second, the view.  I've seen the normal view.

I began getting frustrated because there was SO MUCH traffic it's hard to think.  There are HUGE buses trying to make their way through the narrow roads, bus after bus after bus.  We turned around a couple of times and I almost gave up.  Then we saw a wee bitty sign for parking.  Why not?  We took the road and then the next and then the next and yet another.  It was quite a journey and if someone wanted to play a trick and switch any one of those signs, tourists would be lost forever (that's not a suggestion!). We finally arrived to a parking area and a very enthusiastically friendly woman asked us for €2.  SOLD!  We took off on the hike that led us around a different vantage point.

A hike to the cliffs, but no worse than the tourist trail on the main side.
There is something about seeing a classic familiar site, and I do hope Gwyndolyn doesn't feel cheated out of that vision, but this side was really really cool.  And there was an old fort ruin that you could still go into.  There were still quite a good number of people, but not NEARLY like the main side.  People were friendly and the view was great.  We only saw one divorce in progress where the husband needed to sit on the absolute edgiest ledge and the wife was practically begging him to back off of it.  He repeatedly insisted.  I'm not taking sides here, but that cliff was a widow-maker if she wanted it to be!
The Cliffs of Moher from a different angle than usual.

Fort that you could see in the photo earlier of the hike!
To be continued!!