Sunday, June 18, 2017

To Ireland and Back Again

Well, that's a wrap. We did Ireland and can check that off our list. Lots of talk yesterday on our way home about our next trip.

The trip home was LONG. Not only was our flight out of Shannon 2 hours delayed (which we discovered when we got to the airport), but on the flight from JFK we sat on the plane for 1 and a half hours. They said there was "traffic" ... we were number 27 in line for take off. Ugh.

The plus side of the plane ride home from JFK was that the Sounder players were on our plane. A bunch of them...My favorite goalie Stefan sat one row in front of me.

As I was sitting in my chair on the plane yesterday I was thinking about how incredible this trip was. It was a whirlwind, no doubt, and I'm sure I can't remember 90% of what we saw, but man Ireland is beautiful...inside and out.

The people of Ireland were so friendly, welcoming and a joy to speak with. There's a long standing relationship between Ireland and America. So many people immigrated during the great famine that Ireland has some strong bonds with the US. The land of opportunity.  We heard so many stories about the immigration, the hardship of it and the glory of it. Families split apart by an ocean, but still keeping in touch as much as they could. Young people sent away from their homeland on "coffin ships" so that they could possibly have a better life. Imagine how hard that  must have been for the family left behind?

The Irish love their food and their culture. We ate so many potatoes on this last trip. It became kinda a joke with us. "Yes, I'll have potatoes, with a side of potatoes." Lots of mashed potatoes.  I had a Beef and Guinness stew over mashed potatoes. The stew had potatoes in it too. I loved it.

Their beef...oh my word was their beef good. Very beefy tasting. They love their livestock. The hills were scattered with sheep and cows. Our tour guide gave us all the names of the cows as we passed them and I only remember a few.

The Kerry cattle were everywhere. All black cows. Along side of them were the Friesian cattle...basically what we call Holsteins. And then my favorite,...the Belted Galloway. They look like Oreo cookies.

Sheep Sheep everywhere. That was what I thought throughout the trip. And somehow I wanted to photograph them constantly. It's like I've never seen a sheep before. These were my favorite types of sheep though...the Highway Is Bumpy Sheep.


What we didn't see were goats. For some reason I thought we'd see goats. We saw one goat along side of the road where a traveler was selling his items and had a goat as a pet.

Cats were another thing we didn't see too many of. Dogs everywhere, but no cats. Janet saw one and I saw one from a distance. We asked our tour guide and she said people have them, but they generally keep them in doors. So that explains it. I guess.

Horses were all over the place too. We saw so many out in the fields, but they were often farther from the highway and we were unable to photograph them.

So somehow this blog turned out to be about their animals when I started talking about the Irish people. Weird how my jet lagged brain works.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Galway - That's a Wrap!

That's a wrap. Today our adventure in Ireland ended in Galway.

We woke, way too early, to get a head start on seeing the last few things in Galway. Started by visiting a church - shocking I know - that was finished in 1965. They consider it a "new" church having been completed in this century. All the other churches we've seen have been finished in the 17th and 18th centuries.




After checking out the church, we took a trip out to Connemara Marble company. Their marble is beautiful and green. Its only found in this part of the word and people often confuse it with jade. The rich colors were so fantastic. I wanted to take a slab home.



We finished our day with a walk about Galway, another medieval town. After our tour we stopped and had our final beer and lunch in Ireland.  We stopped at The King's Head and had a brisket meal that was outstanding. Both Janet and I are about done with fish...for now.





So that's a wrap. Tomorrow we head to Shannon to take the plane back home. It's been a whirlwind vacation and my brain is officially full of Irish facts and history. None of which I can remember, but I know it's in there. I'll likely spend the next week or two or four putting my brain back together after this trip.


So fare thee well Ireland. You've been a fantastic host.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Connemara - Kylemoore - The Bog

Another full day of sight seeing in Ireland. Today we headed to the region of Connemara. They get 80 inches of rain a year and I think 70 of those inches fell today.

Today's trip we ran into some cows along the way that I found amusing. Fist was the set of course who were loose in the street. The coach driver had to slam on his breaks to avoid hitting them as they trotted across the street. Well, ok, not really SLAM on his breaks, but he had to slow down to let them pass.


The second cow we came across was during a stop to take photos of famine huts (back in 1847 the potato famine hit Ireland. Millions of people were displaced and moved to the west side of the island by the Queen of England.  They were given a small amount of $$ to build their homes. All of them were stone homes that had basically one room. Now days they are just shells of themselves.)

Anyhow, while I was walking down the street to see one of these I looked right and here stood this gal. She had two calves with her, but they were too shy to show themselves any more than a flash.  The look on this cows face made me laugh. It's as if she's thinking, "WTH?"


We learned all about peat today.  We've been talking about it for several days and learning about how it's harvested, dried and stored for the winter. Peat is a fossil fuel and the Connemara region is COVERED by it. In fact, it's the only county in Ireland that they still harvest it.

They cut it using some fancy tool with an Irish name that I can't remember (a schol maybe). Then they put it in these little teepee looking set ups for them to dry. 6 to 8 weeks later they stack it. Then they transport it to their homes to burn.

These photos were taken out of a moving bus, so they're a bit blurry. But you get the general point.



Our first stop today was Kylemoore Abbey. It started as a home for some wealthy folk. The work to build it began in 1647. The woman who was designing the inside of it only got to live in it for a couple of years, dying very young. Then it was handed over to the Benedictine Nuns who then turned it into a boarding school. Now it's a tourist attraction. It was magnificent though. The architecture is beautiful.




We did get to go inside, and while the inside was beautiful, it wasn't much to photograph and then write home about.

Following this, we hopped on a catamaran and had lunch and saw Ireland's only fjord. The weather held off for us and we got a beautiful view of the country side from this fjord and the clear waters.

The Lady Galway


View off the back of the boat looking down the fjord.

As part of our lunch we got Baileys and coffee.  Janet there got a Irish coffee (whiskey and coffee) AND a baileys and coffee. She's such a lush. 


Tomorrow is our last day in Ireland and Galway. We're doing a walking tour in the morning of this medieval town and then we have the afternoon free. I'm both sad and happy this vacation is winding down. It's been a whirlwind. Most days I can't tell if I'm coming and going. And as nice as it is to go, it's nice to come home. Your bed. Your shower. Your outlets that work right. Your light switches that make sense.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cliffs of Moher - The Burren - Galway

Today was the day to which I was looking most forward. The Cliffs of Moher. The number of books I've read that has Ireland as the back drop...and all of them mention the Cliffs. I was excited to see for myself what all the hubbub was about. And let me tell you, the pictures will not, and cannot, do it justice.

Oh my were they something. The wind was whipping around us at like 40 mph - maybe not but it felt like it. And the crazy ass people who would stand way too close to the edge (they'd climb over the fence to keep you from doing that. Dumb asses).

But first, the crab hats made an appearance today. Finally. Many folks in our tour group kept asking us when they'd come out...and here they are. Wind blown, but happy.




I should back up a bit, but I had to get those photos out immediately. Anyhow, we took off out of Killarney this morning WAY too early. The tour director said the Cliffs would be packed so we wanted to get a good start to get there before the crowds. Though it didn't matter much. The crowds were still there. Soooo many people! Oy vei!

To get there we had to cross the River Shannon. The River Shannon cuts through Ireland and is the longest and widest river in all of Ireland. So to get across it we had to hop on a ferry. Now, we're in a massive motor coach and the ferry looked tiny to me. You decide.


After the Cliffs we drove through a part of Ireland called the Burren. There's a reason, I just can't remember. Other than the landscape really changes to that of mars-esk. The area is covered in limestone. According to wikipedia, "The exact extent of the area referred to as The Burren is not clearly defined. The name is generally applied to the limestone uplands of north western Clare, but the borders vary.". It was crazy to see this landscape.

Ignore all the people. We didn't stop the bus so I couldn't get out to shoot a decent photo. 


Tomorrow we're headed to Connemara to see an abbey, to see the Bog and see what peat is and all that stuff. We're exhausted, but still having fun. Just two more days then we start our long journey home. Hard to believe it's gone by that quickly. Other than I'm in information overload.  It'll take me a couple of days, weeks, months, etc to process everything I've learned. Of course I may not even remember so that will make it quicker.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ring of Kerry...

Our adventure continues. Today we got in the coach and drove around the Ring of Kerry. It's only called a "ring" because its a circular drive. Many on the bus tried so hard to find another reason for it. But alas, the guide said, no it's just because you drive in one big circle. And drive we did.

Our first stop was in a very small town called Waterview. The only purpose of stopping here was a potty break and to see a statue of Charlie Chaplin. Apparently he married an Irish woman and she was from around these parts.


From there we drove up the west coast. Such beautiful scenery...all of it on the OTHER side of the bus. I swear, my superpower is whatever side of the bus I'm sitting on, the best scenery will be on the other side. Thankfully we stopped every now and then for a photo op.



As we drove I found myself shooting photos of the amazing landscape. I've said it once and I'll say it again...Ireland is soooo GREEN.



We lunched in a little town called Sneem. I would have liked to have wandered through it, but we literally had 45 minutes for a lunch that was already prepared for us.

As you drive through Ireland you see sheep everywhere. On the east side of the island the pastures were way more pasture-y. This side had more rocks in it. All day I would glance out the window and think I see sheep, when in fact they were just rocks. And visa versa. One time we were stopped for traffic and I glanced out the window and saw this beautiful rock...that then moved.

Leaving Sneem at lunch we finished the Ring of Kerry driving through and over the mountains here in Ireland. Now, to us in Seattle these aren't mountains, but they sure were beautiful. We stopped at a lake area that is called Lady's View. Queen Victoria had some summer home around here and this was her and her ladies in waiting's view.


Back in Killarney we had some free time so Janet and I started walking around the city. We stumbled into ( and later stumbled out of) a whiskey bar. Being the good little tourists we were we stopped for a flight of whiskey.


I didn't love all of these in fact only really loved one. Bushmills Single Malt 16 year. Naturally the most expensive bottle.

We then walked a block and realized we should get food in our tummies to soak up that alcohol and so we dove into a little Italian place for beer and bruschetta as an appetizer. Not too much longer after that, and only a couple blocks away, we stopped to have dinner.




This is what I love about Ireland. That bottom plate is Cottage Pie with mashed potatoes. It came with a side of vegetables (broccoli and rutabagas) and a side of chips.

"Why yes, I'll have some potatoes with a side of potatoes please."

But that cottage pie was fan-freakin-tastic.

Tomorrow we leave Killarney headed to Galway. Along the way we'll see the famed Cliffs of Moher (the crab hats may have to come out for that shot).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dingle

My friend P told me if I had a chance to go to Dingle I should. And so we did. And let me tell you, it was worth it. The scenery and landscape on the West side of the Island is very much what you think Ireland coastline would be. Lush, severe and beautiful.

The little town of Dingle is very quaint and full of tourist.  Our guide was telling us today that most the shops in Dingle close from Nov - Feb because there aren't very many tourist that come through. Those are some hard times I bet.



Dingle has the wonderful Dolphin who has lived in their waters for over 30 years, Fungi. We didn't see him today out in the water, but the locals assured us he was there. They have tours that go out specifically to meet Fungi. Crazy. Luigi met Fungi today too. 


I also got to meet an ass today.


As I mentioned, the countryside around Dingle was just gorgeous. The greens are so green. I keep thinking that it's as lush as Washington, and yet its a different kind of lush.


We took this scenic route called the Slea Head Drive. It goes out along the coast and the drop off from the road is, well, let's just say you'd have a bad day if you made one wrong step.







We spent a lot of time on the bus today and my butt was getting tired of sitting. Still, the scenery was gorgeous and I just can't get enough of the green, lush landscape.

We got back a bit later than planned and we were starvings. So we walked down to this little pub called Murphy's.  I ordered the Beef and Guinness stew...and oh boy was that a treat. So rich and delicious. They served it on top of a big scoop of mashed potatoes. Why have I not eaten stew with mashed potatoes ... ever?

But the best part of dinner was Janet's meal. She ordered the Beef Stroganoff. Now we've all had beef stroganoff and we all know that it has beef, mushrooms, and sour cream in it. Maybe onions even. Her's had bell peppers and...wait for it...PICKLES. Dill Pickles. Crazies thing ever.



And just for fun, let me share photos of the other things I ate today.


Fish and chips at some restaurant that Grand Circle set up for us to eat at. It was good. In fact, it was one of the few fish and chips I've had there in which they didn't have the skin on the fish. Who does that? Gross. The last couple of times I've had fish and chips they leave the skin on the fish. Ick.

Murphy's Ice Cream is a big deal here. We had it once before in Dublin and decided today seemed like as good as time as any to have another cup. I had Malted Chocolate both times and it's delicious.

In Dingle I got a wee bit chilled so I decided to pop into a restaurant and get a hot chocolate. They asked, what I thought was, do I want whipped cream. Naturally I said yes. It came out with whipped cream AND marshmallows. Where has THAT been all my life? I really have lived a sheltered life.

Tomorrow we head out to drive around the Ring of Kerry. More landscapes. More beautiful scenery. We'll have time in the after noon to actually see Killarney. We've seen almost nothing of it. I did spy a pub called Mustang Sally's. Might have to check that out.