So, I went to Ireland back in 2000, here's the story.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It all started with a simple invitation. My Aunt, who really isn't my aunt but is the closest thing I've ever had to one, asked me to go to Ireland with her and her daughter. Being the world traveler that I am, I instantly said an automatic "yes."

They had expressed and interest in going in the spring when Elizabeth (the daughter) would be on spring break. I thought this was a fantastic idea, I had been to France the year before in April and it was perfect, the weather was mild, and there weren't too many tourists. (Always a good thing when traveling.)

Ireland had always been a dream for both my Aunt Patty, and Elizabeth. They are very proud of their Irish heritage, and know the family name and county where they come from. I had heard for years that they were going to go "this summer," so when I agreed, I didn't think that it would really come true. Well it did come true and that's what this story is all about.

As I said, they had suggested going in the spring which, I thought, was a perfect idea. Well that idea didn't last too long. After plans got started, they realized that they wanted to stay longer than the one week they would be allowed for spring break. Since I was just along for the ride, I really didn't care when we went, as long as we were able to actually go.

It was finally decided that we would go right after Elizabeth got out of school, which was a problem for me. I had an event I had to be at for my work in mid-June, so I wouldn't be able to go until after that. After some cajoling and a strong "It just ain't gonna happen," Elizabeth was finally convinced that a couple weeks wait wasn't going to kill her for her trip of a lifetime.

The dates were set, and a travel plan was being determined. They wanted to see everything and I only had two weeks of vacation. I had to limit myself and determine how far we could go through the county before I had to get back since they were staying for four weeks. We spent many nights with the travel books and magazines deciding what we wanted to see, where we wanted to go, and finding "cute" Bed & Breakfasts where we were going to stay. We pinned a map of Ireland on the living room wall and put pushpins into the places we wanted to see. This strategy did not work; the whole lower half of Ireland was pushpins. We did, however, decide that a southern route would be taken.

Several weeks before departure, Patty informed me that she had invited her Aunt Pam and Uncle Marty. I had met Pam before and remembered what a nice person she was so I didn't care about that, but I had never met Marty. Patty assured me that everyone in the family loved Marty since he was Pam's second husband and that he would be a lot of fun on the trip. Being the easy going, fun-loving person that I am, I said sure. Never mind the fact that this was their trip and I was along for the ride, I figured they could invite the devil himself, and I wouldn't have too much of a say in it.

The plans were now set: Five people fly into Dublin, stay there for three days, rent a car, and start driving south. I was told that I would be the designated driver for the group since I was the youngest of the drivers, and could drive a stick shift without any difficulty. Being the driver was fine with me, I'm an Aries, and always have to be in control so this was the perfect setup for me. I also thought it would be a fun adventure, you know, driving from the right side of the car on the left side of the road.

June comes, and everyone is getting more excited. Patty and Elizabeth now have their first passports, and are ready for their first overseas adventure. Pam and Marty have been packing for weeks, and I'm just trying to get through the Sonoma golf tournament at work without too many catastrophes.

The day finally comes for us to leave. I have never been a fan of the flight from California to Europe. Its long, tiring, and I get airsick. I love to travel, but I hate the travelling part of it. Patty and Liz are not great flyers as it is. For some reason, they always seem to have bad flights with lots of turbulence or something else goes wrong. I just know that it's going to be one hell of a long day, and by the end of it I'm going to want a shower, and a great meal, given I don't eat on airplanes.

I stayed the night at my parent's house because they live in the same town as Patty, and everyone wanted to leave around 9:30am for an afternoon flight. I had reservations about leaving that early, but all I got was that Marty wanted to get there early. So I arrived at Patty's about 8:30 and was greeted by a group of excited travelers who hadn't had too much sleep the night before.

As expected, we got to the airport way too early. We had to wait about an hour just for the check-in desk to open up then ended up wondering around the airport for what seemed like forever. My high point of the day was when I saw Gary Marshall walking through the airport but that didn't last too long, when all I had to look forward to was a very long day of travel.

Finally we made it onto the plane, and I could just go to sleep. I find that sleeping on a nine-hour flight makes it a little more livable. So after nine or so hours, we land in London. As everyone files off of the plane, we group back up together and figure out where our gate is for our transfer to Dublin. We end up walking about two miles to get to the terminal where our Dublin flight was supposed to take off from. After a nine-hour flight and the walk of the damned we were exhausted.

Luckily, the flight from London to Dublin wasn't that long, and we were finally at our destination. All we had to do now was get to the hotel.

I had found out from my discussions with the Bed & Breakfast that I booked I could take the number forty-four bus and it would drop us off on O'Connell Street, which was real close to the hotel. So, after obtaining our luggage from the pit of despair, we filed outside to find the buses that go into the city.

This is when my realization that Ireland is the nicest country comes into play. You know how you always hear about the Irish as very open and nice people; well I'm here to tell you it's true. In my short years on this planet I have managed to put some miles under my belt. I've been to France, London, Belgium, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and not to mention a few places here in the states (very few). On all of my travels I have met wonderfuly nice people, but not the type of openness, and genuine caring that I felt from the people in Ireland.

As the five of us file out of the airport looking like the lost tourists that we were, we managed to find the busses. In retrospect, how can a person miss large busses parked on the curb outside of the airport exit? Anyway, we are standing around trying to figure out which is the correct bus, what it costs, and do we have the money, when a man comes up to us and asks which bus we're looking for. Since I have the most stamps in my passport, I'm looked to for the answers. I tell the gentleman what bus we want. He directs us over to the correct bus and asks us if we have the correct change for the bus, after he figures out the total in his head. All we have is a fifty pound note and that just won't do, it's far too much. He quickly grabs the fifty and walks away saying he'll get us the proper change. As I stand there watching this man walk away I'm thinking to myself that we just lost fifty pounds to an Irish crook. Just as I'm about to come up with our next move since we've obviously lost our money, the man comes back and counts out our change, starts loading our bags onto the correct bus, and tells the bus driver where we need to get off.

This act of pure courtesy had me stunned for the next fifteen minutes until we were well on our way into the City. When we reached O'Connell Street, the bus driver let me know we had arrived at our destination and it was time to get off the bus. We gathered our luggage, stepped off the bus, looked around, and knew this was a bad idea. We had no idea where we were, or how to get to the hotel. All I knew was the street for our B&B was just off of O'Connell Street, and about a five minute walk. To five tired tourists, this was not good news.

I guessed at the general direction we should go and started everyone walking. After several "are you sure you're going in the right direction?" I stopped everyone left them on the corner, and went into a nearby mini mart. I asked the person at the counter where the street we were looking for was and, as fate would have it, we were right on the corner of the street we had to turn on. I went back to my pack of unhappy travelers and informed them of our happy occurrence. This seemed to brighten everyone up a bit, and we were off once again with suitcases in tow.

More minutes later and more tired complaints, I spotted the B&B. This would be our home for the next two nights and we couldn't be any happier to see a place than we were at that time. After an exhaustive check-in process, we walked up the three flights of stairs, dragging our suitcases behind us, and found our rooms.

After I took a shower and got cleaned up a bit, I realized I needed to have some food - fast. Next thing I knew, Liz was knocking on my door with a very important question.

"How do you turn the shower on?"

Granted, these showers are not the ones we're used to here in the States, but still, it's only a shower. After some gentle ribbing, I found out they wouldn't be ready for awhile, and I knew that if I stayed in my room much longer I would be asleep. I decided to go for a walk and see if I could find some place close for dinner and what the lay of the land was like.

I took a short walk up the block, found a much-needed ATM and got some cash. When I returned to the hotel, I stopped and chatted with the lady who was working the front desk for the evening. I asked her for a good place to eat dinner that was very close. She gave me some suggestions, then proceeded to have a great conversation with me. I was once again introduced to the open friendliness of Ireland.

After about twenty minutes of story swapping with the lady at the desk, I made my way back upstairs to find out if everyone was ready yet. I told them what I had found out for dinner, and we decided to eat at a nearby hotel in their restaurant. Everyone gathered their gear, and we walked the block and a half to dinner.

Following the first of many wonderful meals we were to discover in Ireland, we all went back to the hotel for some much needed rest so we could begin our adventure the next day.After a night of restless jet-lagged sleep, and a good breakfast, complements of the hotel, we began our trip in earnest. We decided to make our way back up to O'Connell Street since it is the "main drag" of the city and see what we could find.

We all had ideas of what we wanted to see, and decided that we wanted to see it all. When we got to O'Connell Street we saw a bus go by that said Dublin Tours on it. Well, what better way to see a city than from a bus with a driver that knows where everything is?

We found the tourist office, which wasn't too much of a walk, bought our tickets, and started on our journey. The concept of this bus tour is simple; it does a ring around the city and stops at all of the hot spots. You are free to get off of the bus, discover whichever tourist attraction you want, and then get back on another bus when it comes around. Our decision was made to do a full circle with the bus, see where it stops, and then start over and pick the sights we want to get off at.

Dublin is a major metropolitan city and everything is sort of spread out, but with all big cities, once you get the "lay-of-the-land" you pretty much know where everything is. Once we completed our ring-around-the-city, we decided we wanted to see Trinity College with the Book of Kells, Christchurch, St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Stephen's Green, and the Guinness Brewery. We got off the bus at Trinity College, and walked to our first "Dublin attraction."The five of us together cannot be determined as anything other than American tourists. We range in age from 16 to 70, and dress accordingly. With this being the case, I decided I was not going to try to fit in, and do as the locals do. I decided it was time to flaunt the tourist card. I brought out the camera, started snapping photos, and did the requisite "oooh" and "aaaahhh."

We roamed around the college for awhile, then tried to find the library where the Book of Kells is kept. Finding it, after getting lost and asking for directions from a kindly security guard was an adventure in itself. The Book of Kells is a whole exhibit with gift shop and everything. When Patty and Liz told me they wanted to see this "book"; I thought "OK, sure", I was thinking some old book in a cold room, not the informational overload that it was.

The exhibit lists the different parts of the book, how it and other books like it are made, and the history of it. The book of Kells is a very old Celtic text of the gospels. What I figured would be a 10-15 minute quick look at a book ended up being a 45-minute lesson on bookmaking, history of Ireland and the gospels themselves.

Finishing our tour with the college, we walked across the street to Grafton Street. This is the big tourist shopping area. It's a long street that is cut off from traffic, and is just shops and restaurants. We did some browsing, bought some essentials at a pharmacy then decided that we were hungry and it was time for lunch.

Full with trendy sandwiches from a bistro we headed back to the bus stop for our next destination, which was Christchurch Cathedral. When we got there it was packed with groups of teenage tourists from Italy and France. There was also a service going on so we didn't get to see inside of the church right away. Patty, Pam and Marty left Liz and I there. They didn't want to hang around all of the tourists and wait to get into this church.

We were able to get into the church after waiting for about 20 minutes but it was well worth the wait. When we walked in the church, it wasn't any different than many of the other churches I have been to all over Europe, but this one has some catacombs that we were able to wonder around in. The other neat thing was the church was having a reception in the catacombs for those who attended the service earlier. They had tables and chairs set up and were serving tea and cakes in these old catacombs.
Liz and I walked around the catacombs for awhile with her directing me to take a picture of this, and that, and don't forget that one over there. When we had our fill of the catacombs, we went back up to the street to find everyone else. We met up with Patty, Pam and Marty who were looking pretty tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. It was only about 4:30 and Liz and I still wanted to see St. Patrick's Cathedral since we were going to be leaving the next day.

We made a deal, I would watch Liz as if my life depended on it, and we could go off on our own to see St. Patrick's, and the adults would go back to the hotel to get the rest they desired. So off we went to find St. Patrick's Cathedral not bothering with the bus, because we remembered that on our first ring-around-the-city St. Patrick's is fairly close to Christchurch.

As we thought, it was only a short walk to St. Patrick's so we wandered around the gardens for awhile, then made our way inside. Once inside we made our way around the church with me taking pictures of everything I could and Liz directing me to take even more pictures.

We knew the last bus left at 5:30 so we were sure to get outside at the bus stop in plenty of time so as not to miss the bus. Well, we ended up standing outside in the rain for about 10-20 minutes waiting for the bus to come and get us back to our hotel. We arrived back at the hotel, met up with everyone else, and went to dinner. We made it a early night because the next day was going to be the beginning of a very long day.

We woke up early the next day, had our breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and Patty called to confirm on the car reservation. The rental agency had no record of her confirmed reservation, nor who she was. This little bit of news sent everyone into a frenzy. Everyone was offering their opinion and making suggestions as to what to do next. Liz and I did the smart thing, and stayed out of the way. After many phone calls, much frustration and several sighs of despair, Patty found us a car. It wasn't what we had reserved, but we really didn't care. The company was sending someone to pick us up and take us to get the car. It was decided that Patty, Liz and I would go to pick up the car, and Pam and Marty would stay at the hotel with the luggage.

We were finally given a car after more waiting around and going through an enormous amount of paperwork. We ended up with a Toyota Avensis, which I figured out that it is the European version of the Avalon. We were told that it would fit 5 people with their luggage. Well it did, barely. We had to stuff, crunch and physically force our luggage in the trunk, and were able to get it all in there save for one suitcase, which the trio in the back got to hold. The trio was Pam, Patty and Marty. As I stated before, I was the driver and I had Elizabeth be my navigator.

We had a lot of frustration that day. Beginning with actually deciding where to go. The only straight answer I ever got was "I just want to go to the coast." With these directions in hand, Liz found us some roads to drive on, and a general destination of where we were going. The roads were small and winding at times, and I think we did get lost once, but the way I figure things, we had no set plans, and we were exploring a foreign country. How bad can it be?As we were driving, it was decided that we would go to Wicklow for our first night in the country. Wicklow is a small village on the coast, and isn't too far from Dublin. The drive to Wicklow is amazing. It was on this drive that we discovered the true Ireland. This is the Ireland that you see in movies, and photos. We drove through the Wicklow Gap, and had our breath taken away by all the different shades of green.

When we got to Wicklow we easily found a B&B to stay at and began our trip in earnest. We checked in at the B&B, got ourselves settled, and did what would then become a ritual; asked the proprietor of the house where we could get dinner and what are some of the attractions?

The lady of the house told us of a great Italian restaurant to have dinner at. We decided we would walk to the restaurant for dinner and see what else there was to see. We had been cramped up in the car all day, so a nice evening walk sounded perfect for everyone.

After dinner we strolled around town and found out there was to be a regatta around Ireland the next day. We couldn't believe our luck, this regatta happens every other year, and we just chanced to show up on the day that before it was to happen. We also saw some old castle ruins that would need exploring in the morning. When we got back to our room, Patty broke out the travel book and discovered the castle is an old Viking ruin called the Black Castle.

The next morning started with breakfast at the B&B. We found out that two crew members from one of the boats in the race were staying there. We had a nice chat with them, and found out what time the race started. With this information we were ready to start our day. We knew that we wanted to be in Waterford by the end of the day, but still had much to see and do in Wicklow.

I was nominated to go down the road to the payphone with B&B book in hand, and find us a room for the night. After a couple phone calls, I found us a couple rooms to stay in Tramore which is just outside of Waterford. When I got back to the B&B I was told to cancel the reservation I had just made because Marty had taken it upon himself to get us a room for the night. Knowing that we were going to be checking out and heading out on our way to sight see, I decided I'd call later.

When we got everything packed up and ready to go, we decided our first stop would be the town's Gaol. This is one of the many prisons that was used from about the 1500's up until the 1800's. The tour there is really informative, and gives the visitor a glimps of what life as a prisoner back then. Let me just say that we treat our unwanted animals better than those prisoners were treated. There was very little food, no personal space, and many prisoners were shipped to Australia to try to make a living out of nothing.

Following our uplifiting tour of the Gaol, we drove down to the harbor to check out the boats, and go roam around the Black Castle. The crew members of the boats were just starting to get everything together for the race. It was only about 11am and the race didn't take off until 2pm. We knew that we had a while before they took off so we made our way up the hill to the Black Castle.

The Black Castle is only a bunch of ruins, but the view from the cliffs is amazing. We roamed around there for awhile, and then decided to go see what else what going on at the regatta.

Getting our fill of boat watching, Liz and I decided we were in dire need of a restroom. Looking around, we noticed there were none to be found at the docks, so we made our way into town. We found a restaurant right on the water, and begged for the bathroom. When we met up with everyone after our deed was done, they told us they were hungry and wanted lunch. Instead of trying to figure out someplace to eat, I just said "Follow me" and we took off to the restroom restaurant. Luckily, the restaurant was very good, and everyone enjoyed their meal. Unfortunately, by the time we finished lunch we missed the start of the regatta so we piled back into the car and took off for Waterford.

On our drive to Waterford, we discovered a traditional cemetery with an old castle ruin. Considering we had been driving for a while I made the executive decision that a rest stop and Kodak moment was needed.

We roamed around the cemetery for about 20 minutes, and I took many a picture of all of the old head stones and the castle ruins. When we had all stretched our legs, we got back in the car, decided that we had found a wonderful "side trip" and went back to counting the strawberry and potato stands that we passed.

We reached Tramore in the evening, ready for dinner and a good night's sleep. We asked the hostess for some local info, and she told us of a pub nearby that has good food. We drove into town and discovered that Tramore is a very quaint seaside town. The downtown area of Tramore has many pubs and shops all over the place. The only problem we discovered was parking. I circled the town a couple times before frustration made me park at an apartment complex.

We made the short walk to the pub, and found some seats for some grub. Liz and I sat seperate from the adults because seating was sparse. Also, being in a car for the whole day didn't help us to get along any better, so nerves were wearing thin. Liz and I finished dinner before everyone else, so we decided to take a walk around the town and get some fresh, non-smoky air. We did a turn around the town, which didn't take too long, and went back to meet up with the adults. We declared that was the end of the day, and went back to the room for a good night's sleep.

The next day found us traveling to Waterford to the famous crystal factory. We did the tour there and learned a lot about how crystal is made, and cut. The tour was fascinating, and then, of course, they drop you off at the gift shop/showroom and challenge you not to spend any money. Luckily, I was able to get out of there without too much damage done to my wallet.

After we left Waterford we headed North to Kilkenney. This was the place we had been looking for but didn't know it.

When we got to Kilkenney, we dropped Pam and Marty off at the tourist office to find us a B&B to stay at. Patty, Liz and I went to find parking. We ended up parking in front of a B&B, so we went ahead and asked if they had any rooms. Well, they didn't, but the gentleman did call a friend that runs another B&B right up the road, and they had 2 rooms for us. We got directions and headed off to take a look at the place.

The house was perfect. Not too close to downtown, but close enough to be within walking distance. We said we would have to check with our other travellers, but we wanted the rooms and would be back in a few minutes to formally check in.

We went to pick up Pam and Marty from the tourist office, and told them of our luck. They hadn't really found anything at the tourist office, so agreed to stay at the place we had found.

After everyone was settled, the decision was made to split up for the night. Pam and Marty wanted to eat early, and go to bed, while Patty, Liz and I wanted a good dinner and, maybe, check out the pub scene. After we freshened up a bit we asked for a good restaurant in the area. The son, who was in charge for the afternoon at the B&B, told us of a nice restaurant just up the road called Langston's. "O.K." we said, and headed down the road with our directions.

It was still a little too early for us to eat, so we found a nearby pub and went inside for a pint (or two). Given the early hour of the day, we were the only ones at the Pub so we were able to monopolize the bartenders time. We told him of our travels so far, and what we were up to next. Liz, being the flirty 16 year old she is, decided she had a small crush on this guy, and was doing everything she could to impress him with her ways of the world.

We had a good time, and ended up wasting enough time until we were hungry for dinner. We said goodbye to the bartender and told him we may be back later for the live music. We walked over to Langston's and got seated promptly for dinner. Langston's is a huge pub/restaurant/hotel. The restaurant portion is very large in its own right. The dining area is spread out, and has high ceilings. In the center of the room the ceiling opens up to a skylight that has the most beautiful stained glass in it. The glass is patterns of red flowers and lets in all kinds of light and airyness.

After dinner we were stuffed, and decided that we would head back over to the pub to listen to the music and check out the "scene." The band played the good old moldy oldies that everyone likes, and we had a fun, toe-tapping night. Even Elizabeth, who was quite well known of being embarassed by us, had a good time.

When we got back to the B&B we were greeted by the lady of the house, Angela, and had a wonderfully long conversation with her. We found out that Angela would be travelling to the States in the fall, and she was very excited. She also confirmed our suspicions that Kilkenney is an amazing place. It offers everything a person could want: history, charm, shopping, night life, and it comes in a nice small package.

The next morning we went to do the tour of Kilkenney castle which sits on the river Knor in the middle of town. Since the castle is in town, we walked there and took the back way in. The walk there is so peaceful, you can't even hear the sounds of the city because you are engulfed in the beauty and the trees.

When we reached the castle, we roamed around the grounds for a bit before the tour began. We took the standard castle tour and afterwards we walked across the street to the Design Center to do more shopping and have some lunch.

With gifts and food out of our way, we were ready to begin touring the city. Outside of the Design Center we saw a Kilkenney City tour bus and decided to go on it. We mentioned to the driver that we had taken a similar bus in Dublin and he told us if we still had our tickets from that tour then we could get a discount on the trip. Everyone else had tossed their tickets, but I knew mine was in my backpack. After some frantic searching around, I was still unable to find the ticket, but the driver gave me the discount anyway. So with tickets in hand we boarded the bus and were off to discover Kilkenney.

We did the same thing with the Kilkenney tour bus as we had with the Dublin bus, we made the loop and decided what we would want to see later. After the tour of the city, Pam and Marty wanted to go back to the B&B for a rest, and Liz wanted to do some shopping. We decided to take the car when we got back to the hotel so we could go exploring when we got done with the requisite clothes shopping.

We searched shop after shop after shop for the "perfect" outfit that Liz was looking for. She was tired of looking like an American tourist, and wanted to blend in. We finally found a shop that had some clothes she liked, and that Patty and I approved of. Once finished with the shopping we went to check out a church that we saw on the tour.

We had parked in a parking garage in the middle of town when we were shopping and hadn't noticed the sign that you have to pay before you get to the gates. When we got to the gates, you are supposed to have a code or token, I forget what, and insert it into the machine. Well, as cars pile up behind me, I'm at a loss as to what to do. I finally press the button to speak to the attendant. He tells me to insert my code/token and I say to him: "We're stupid tourists and didn't read the sign to pay before we leave. What should we do." I could just imagine the look on the guys face. He let us through without paying and we were on our way with a laugh that we were so oblivious.

When we got to the church, Liz wanted to climb the tower there and check out the view. I gave her the camera and said, "knock yourself out." While we were waiting, Patty and I started talking to a lady who was sitting on a bench in the cemetary. She had a beautiful Springer Spaniel with her, and we started swapping pet stories. It turned out that her and her husband were over from England on holiday, and their dog is a show dog, and has entered many competitions.

Once the lady, her dog, and her husband were on their way, Patty and I went inside the church to look around. Liz finally made her way down from the tower and joined us. I took the camera and started snapping photos. We didn't stay too long at the church, so we headed back to the B&B to freshen up before dinner.

Not having any other information, we ended up going back to Langston's for dinner. Patty told us that Pam and Marty were going to join us later at the pub at Langston's because there was going to be a traditional Irish band playing. As this was our last night in Kilkenney, and I had been such a good girl the whole trip, I decided it was time to tie one on. I started ordering the Guinness, and didn't stop until much later. Luckily, Guinness is such a wonderful brew that even though I was sporting a nice buzz all night, I had no hangover the next day. Everyone had a great evening, and enjoyed the music wich was good because we didn't need unhappy travelers for our day of driving to come.

The next day we set out for the city of Cork. Patty was very excited. She had read all sorts of material on how wonderful a city it is, and how nice people are there.

The drive from Kilkenney to Cork is a very long one, and when we arrived in this big metropolitan city it was the last place we wanted to be so we left. We were not ready for a big city after spending the last 5 days in small towns. We found out that Blarney is just a stone's throw away from Cork, and decided that would be our next stop.

We got to Blarney after a short drive and found paradise, otherwise known as "The Blarney Woolen Mills. This is a huge department-type store with everything Irish in it. The tourist office is next door, so we stopped there to find a place to stay for the night.

Pam and Marty found a very nice B&B located just outside of town, so we hopped back into the car and went to find our home for the night. When we arrived, we were offered a cup of tea, and some nourishment for our travel-weary bones. After tea, we headed upstairs to do some freshing up, and a little relaxing before deciding on dinner.

Dinner that night was a great place in town that served us some amazing food. After we ate ourselves sick, we went outside to the town square where a local football (soccer) match was going on. We watched that for a while, and then headed across the street to one of the pubs there for some music and beer. Given our long day of travel, we didn't last too long at the pub, and were quickly asleep when our heads hit the pillows.

The next morning found us a the famous Blarney castle to kiss the stone. I was not feeling up to climbing the ump-teen thousand steps to the top, so I handed my camera off to Patty and told her to take a bunch of pictures.

When they finally made it down from the tower, we decided it was time for some serious shopping. We headed off to the Woolen Mills to get lost in the rows upon rows of souvenirs. Spending too much money and having a great time, we finally met back up outside, and took a vote on what was to be done next.

It was decided that we would stay another night in Blarney, because no one was ready to get back on the road yet, and it was getting late in the day. We spent the evening at the pub we had been at the night before, and enjoyed a nice dinner, even though Patty's soup was too peppery for her. After the music and Guinness, we did more shopping at a small gift shop next door, then headed back to the B&B for some rest.

The next morning we headed off for Killarney, and the ring of Kerry. When we arrived in the city of Killarney, we were totally lost. Driving into the city was extremely confusing for us because it was so busy, and the streets were very narrow. I had four people telling me what to do, where to go, and to look out for that guy crossing the street. In all of this confusion, I sort of, hit someone's car.

Ok, I didn't hit the car hard, just knicked the mirror a bit. Well, this sent everyone off into a frenzy, and they all wanted me to pull over, but there was nowhere to pull over at. I finally circled a block, and found a place to pull over at. Marty automatically jumped out of the car, and went to talk to the guy I hit. When he came back, he said that this kind of thing happens all of the time, and that he wasn't upset. He said he sounded more upset about being delayed from his task by Marty asking if everything was alright then about the car.

Back on track after the hit-and-run incident, we resumed our search for the tourist office. We found it without too much difficulty and no other major collisions. This was the largest tourist office we had encountered yet. It had an actual department for reservations, and all sorts of souvenirs throughout the place. We wondered around doing some shopping while the hunt for some rooms was taking place.

With reservations made, we headed, with map in hand to the next place we would stay. When we arrived at the B&B, we noticed that it was more like a mini-hotel than an actual B&B like we had become accustomed to. We made our way up the stairs to the rooms, and decided then, that this was not the place for us.

We pissed off the owner by sitting on the beds, declaring that we didn't want to stay and leaving. We headed back into town to the tourist office for another go at it. This time a home run was hit. We found a place that was on the outskirts of town, up a hill, and secluded.

When we arrived, Mrs. O'Niel greeted us with a very warm welcome, and showed us to our rooms. After we decided who was sleeping where, Patty and I went back downstairs for a nice cup of tea in the garden. Mrs. O'Niel set out a proper tea, and we enjoyed a nice quiet moment after our adventures of the morning. It was exactly what we needed to soothe our severed nerves. After tea, we had a couple hours before dinner, and all of us were a little tired. Liz was up in our room resting, because she had come down with a cold, and Pam and Marty decided to do the same. Patty and I wandered around the property, I went to the back of the house, and discovered the two horses Mr. & Mrs. O'Niel kept. Mrs. O'Niel gave me some bread to feed them, so I stayed back there for awhile and talked to the horses, and watched the feral cats chase rodents, all in all having a wonderfully calm day. I ended my afternoon by going into the parlor with my book and finding a comfy chair to read in. By that time everyone was starting to stir and come together.

I spoke to Mr. O'Niel to find a good place to eat for dinner, and he recommended a place in town that we could try, so once everyone was rested and ready, we headed off for another amazing dinner in Ireland. The restaurant was located on the main drag in Killarney, but Mr. O'Niel had told us we could park by the tourist office, so we did. We found a mall that you could walk through to get to the street, and found the restaurant with out too much difficulty.

The rest of the night was spent with us just going back to the B&B for some much needed rest and preparing for our big trip in the morning. We had made reservations on a tour bus for a trip on the Ring of Kerry. Everyone was pretty excited, because the drive is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland. And given it's a narrow winding road, I was happy I didn't have to drive it with my nervous passengers.

The next morning we had our breakfast, and headed down the hill to where the bus would meet us. After a few stops to pick up more passengers, we were on our way.

The bus ride wasn't too bad. Elizabeth was still feeling like a truck had hit her, but she sucked it up and kept going just to see everything she could. I was just happy I wasn't driving, and could actually look at all of the scenery. The drive is filled with all these mountains and valleys, with so much green that a girl who has grown up in California, could not believe what she was seeing was real.

We made a couple stops on our way down the ring. Our first stop was at the Red Fox Inn. It's just your standard inn/pub, but next door is an old farm with Thatched roof houses. You have to pay to get in, and me being the cheap skate that I am, decided not to serve up my money for the cause. Our next stop was a real fun one.

We stopped at a place alongside of the road where a local sheep farmer gives shows with some of his sheep and two of his dogs. He has rented a small strip of land on a hillside, and has about 4 sheep up on the top grazing, he then sends the dogs up the hill using only whistle commands, and has them bring the sheep down. It was very impressive, and entertaining.

When we reached the bottom of the peninsula we stopped at a hotel, and had an over priced lunch then headed back up the ring to make a couple more stops before getting back to Kilarney.

One of the stops we made was just a vista point, but there were these two Irish Gentlemen there playing music, with their own traveling pet shop. They had rabbits, cats, and all other sorts of animals for sale so, of course, they were a big hit with many doing the "awwww" and "ooohhhh" statements.

When we made it back to Kilarny, Liz was not feeling well at all, so she went to take a bath and relax, and Patty and I headed into town to find a phone to check on things at home. I checked my messages and Patty found out that the dog, cats and horses were all fine, but missed everyone and her husband, Larry, was making daily trips to the barn to make sure the horses got their daily dose of carrots and treats.

We got back to the B&B had a rest, and decided on where to have dinner. Yet another fantastic restaurant was suggested to us, and we ate all we could stand.

With Elizabeth still not feeling too well, and the rest of us just tuckered out from traveling, we decided to take the next day off, and relax. Patty and I took some clothes to a nearby laundry mat, and had our clothes done.

While we were waiting for the clothes to be done, we went and got some sandwitches for everyone, checked with the homeland again, and then went back to the laundry mat for our clothes. The rest of the day was spent just relaxing and sitting around. The next day we would head back out onto the road, and pick up our journey where we left off.

We left the next morning saying goodbye to Mr. & Mrs. O'Niel and Killarney and headed for the Rock of Cashel. Had we known that the drive there was going to be the long traffic-laden one it was, we might have changed our plans.

We followed a line of cars to Cashel that were not out for your normal Sunday drive. These were sports fans. Every town we went through were flying their colors of some team we didn't know. We didn't even know what the sport was that was being played. All we knew was that the three hour drive we were expecting turned out to be about 5 hours.

When we finally made it to Cashel we found our B&B's. We had reserved our rooms in advance with Mrs. O'Niel because her friend ran one of the B&B's. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for us at the inn, so to speak, so we were split up between the two Bed & Breakfasts. Pam and Marty ended up just up the road from us, which was more than fine for us because we had pretty much had our Marty overload by the end of this day. Patty, Liz and I took a nice break and sat outside at our B&B and played cards for a little while before it started to sprinkle, and we were forced inside.

Once again, I took the initiative and asked the keeper of the inn where would be a good place to eat for the evening. He informed me that because of the "hurling" match (the reason for the slow traffic and decorated towns) every place we went to that night would be packed. I told him I understood, but we still had to eat so he suggested a pub up the road.

After everyone had enough time to rest and psyche themselves up to get back into the car we were off to the pub for dinner. The pub wasn't too packed when we got there, so it seemed. We were seated right away, and our drinks were ordered. Then the wait started. We managed to flag down the waitress to give her our orders, and she did tell us that it may be a while before we would get our food because a large order was placed just before ours. Knowing that anywhere else we would go to would be just as packed, I said "no problem."

Patty took this opportunity to call home and check on things while Liz and I stayed with Pam and Marty. After about 15 minutes Marty started whining about the service and how much better the service was when we were in Killarney. I tried to be the diplomatic one and remind him that there was a big sports event in the area, and everywhere we could go would be packed, so we would just have to deal with it. That kept him quiet for a few minutes, but he started up again.

I knew that it was not my place to say anything. I was given a great opportunity by Patty to join them on this trip, but I was tired, hungry, and had had it by then so I just snapped. I said "If you liked the service so much back in Killarney, then why don't you just go, and we'll stay here. Anyplace we go tonight is going to be just like this so all we can do is sit and wait, and try to enjoy ourselves." Luckily he stopped his whining, and Liz just sat there looking at me with a mix of shock, dismay, and gratefulness in her eyes.

When Patty had finally came back to the table she was surprised to find us in fairly good spirits, and our food had arrived. We ate our dinner which turned out to be pretty good, despite the wait, and headed home.

We woke up the next morning and headed for the Rock of Cashel. We took the tour of the old Cathedral there and walked around for awhile before getting back into the car and heading East for Dublin.

We made the drive in relatively good time, however, when we got back into Dublin, my nerves were shot, and the traffic was plentiful.

We ended up coming into town from a different direction than from where we left, and everyone was talking at once causing me to get even more confused as to where we needed to go. Needless to say, we got lost, stopped to consult maps, and I snapped at Marty, but after all of the trauma, we managed to find the hotel we were staying at for the next couple days.

After we made it to the hotel and dropped the bags, along with Pam & Marty, Patty, Liz and I went to return the car. Again, it can't be too simple for the three of us. We knew the place was right across the river and over a couple blocks. What we didn't know was that we would have to drive around the ring of death to get there. You see, there is this road that circles Trinity College, and many streets shoot off of this main road. Well, we couldn't find our street that we had to turn off on, and ended up going around Trinity College about 12 times. By the time we made it to the car rental place my nerves were fried, and I just needed some quiet Jenny time.

We managed to walk back to the hotel, and I quickly made a bee line for the bar. We had a bite to eat, then Patty & Liz went up to their room while I stayed down at the bar for a couple pints. When I finally got up to my room, I was ready for a nice long nap and some quiet. I was able to get a little bit of sleep before Liz came to my door wanting to hang out with me because she was tired of the adults. We stayed in my room for a while longer, then went down to meet everyone for the night's entertainment. Knowing that I was going to have to get up about 3am to make it to the airport, I made it an early evening and didn't stay too long.

I bid everyone a good night, and wished them well for the rest of their trip and headed up to bed. The next morning, at the crack before dawn, I got up, showered, and went downstairs to meet my taxi to head on home.

Despite all of the tension, and arguments, I loved my trip to Ireland, and I can't wait to go again. Patty, Liz and I are planning our second trip to Ireland for Summer 2002 to County Galway, and County Mayo. We decided to cut the traveling down to just two hotels, and not live out of a suitcase so much. Hopefully, with it being just the three of us, we will have an even more amazing time than the last trip.


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