Ireland Trip - Bob and Shirley
May 17 - June 6, 2014

Day 1 - May 17/18 [Sat/Sun]

Fly to Dublin
9 1/2 hour flight on Aer Lingus from San Francisco to Dublin, with an 8 hour time difference. So left around 5:30 PM Saturday, and arrived around 11:30 AM Sunday. (5,200 miles; up to 610 mph and 40,000 ft; -45F outside; great arc over North Dakota, Canada, Greenland, etc). Bob had not ordered ahead of time, but did ask stewardess for vegetarian meal and got it. Tasty. Flight went smoothly

In Dublin the 2 guys at Sixt car rental who served us were funny and friendly, which turned out to be typical of the Irish we met. Great sense of humor. One mistake, though: told us to use diesel, definitely not unleaded petrol, or we would ruin car. Fortunately, gas cap said "Unleaded", which is what it needed. Diesel would have ruined it.

Bob test drove manual transmission using left hand as required (automatic would have cost about $1,000 more) in cul-de-sac, then we drove onto Motorway. Shirley was the "gps unit" and tour guide who made the trip possible. Ireland, like England, finds it often pointless to put up street signs, or label roads as they are on maps, but Shirley guided us successfully throughout.

Drove to Phoenix Park Travelodge (we stayed there 3 nights). Nicest young lady at the desk. We found out she collected Euro coins, hoping to get one from each country, currently missing Slovakia, which we looked for but never found for her. Then we walked a total of about 3 miles to get groceries at SuperValue store. Then totally vegged out, watched a bit of TV. Here is Bob posing in veg out mode.


Day 2 - May 19, 2012 [Mon]

Dublin City Center
Caught bus downtown, which is the way to travel into a city - comfortable, inexpensive (under a couple of Euros), bus driver can deal with traffic.

Walked around checking out souvenir shops, bookstore, etc. Hit the grocery store again - Tesco. Walked over the Liffery River, saw swans, then visited Trinity College, which is a very small campus. Saw the Christ Church Cathedral, built in 1030 AD and St. Patrick's Cathedral, built in 1192 AD.

We ate lunch at Kathmandu Kitchen (Nepalese & Indian Restaurant 18 Dame Street - we are pictured below in the restaurant), which was very nice and we highly recommend. When Shirley tasted the tea with cream, it immediately brought back memories of a bicyle trip she took 30 years ago around Ireland (part of a world wide trip hitting Africa, Europe, North America, New Zealand, and Australia).

We then wandered around awhile before we finally discovered the bus stop that would get us back to the motel, where we simply relaxed for the evening.

Day 3 - May 20 [Tue]

Phoenix Park
We took a bus into Phoenix Park, which is a 2,000 acre park with expansive greens, a walled vegetable garden, a pond, a people's garden. Saw horse chestnut trees and buckeye trees in bloom, lots of magpies. Walked about 2 miles. Amused by the signs.

Decided to walk outside of the park for a bit, saw neighborhood homes (typically duplexes with small yards), and lots and lots of political signs because elections were coming up. While staring across the street at one sign, a lady drove up, rolled down her window, and said that was her sister and we should vote for her.

Ate at the Bombay Pantry take-out restaurant, which had a couple of stools at a counter facing out the window, where we sat and watched it drizzle for a while. Then we shopped for groceries, caught the bus, and went back to the Travelodge.

Day 4 - May 21 [Wed]

Dublin to Waterford
First stop was a visit to Powerscourt Garden, one of the most renowned in Ireland. Got lost going there and leaving, but no worries. Beautiful gardens, green landscape leading to mountain in the far distance, blue skies, white puffy clouds, elaborate fountains, rhodendrums in glorious blossom. Here's a video.

Drove then to our Waterford Travelodge, then walked into town center. Saw quay, wharf, walked along river, visited shopping district, then back to motel.

Day 5 - May 22 [Thu]

Waterford; hike along cliffs


Drove down to Geo Park in Bunmahan in off and on drizzle. Had to stop to accommodate 3 ducks in the road. Two walked over and entered a puddle on the roadside, then started to mate. We passed up GeoPark and instead walked along coastal cliffs. Very spectacular. Next to the path and roadways were beautiful pink Dianthus. Here's a video.

Then we drove to Tramore, where we stopped at a pub/restaurant for lunch - the Raglon Road and Esquire Restaurant. Bob ordered fish platter for 2, which was on special for 30 Euros. Out came a huge, beautifully presented, dish of every sort of fish and shellfish in their shells. Everything, except for interspersed vegetables, tasted awful. All the food was completely cold, as if it had come right out of the refrigerator. Some of the food was definitely going bad. Shirley ate a few bites, Bob ate a bit more, but not much. He finished off all the vegetables. Both agreed it was the worst meal we had ever been served. We refer to it as the "old and cold special". Having said that, the ambiance was good, a bowl of soup Shirley ordered tasted quite good.

Drove then to our Waterford Travelodge, then walked into town center. Saw quay, wharf, walked along river, visited shopping district, then back to motel.

We walked around the town, stopped at SuperValue to pick up some actual food. There were few people on the streets with the off again, on again rain. Drove back to our Waterford Travelodge.

Day 6 - May 23 [Fri]

Mt. Congreve Gardens and House, Waterford crystal show room, Godzilla
We visited the beautiful Mt. Congreve Gardens (video, taking walks along the many paths. Lots of Rhodies (rhododendrums) in magnificent bloom. The bushes were huge, the size of trees. At one point we got a close-up view of a ring-necked pheasant as it went about its business. Here's the video

Returned to Waterford and decided to catch a movie - Godzilla, which we found a bit disappointing.

Visited the Waterford Crystal Show room. The Travelodge staff had told us the original factory/showroom had gone bust and now there was the smaller one downtown. There were some nice pieces of course, ranging in price well into the tens of thousands of Euros.

Day 7/8 - May 24/25 [Sat/Sun]

Drive to Cork, then visit Ballycotton
In Ballycotton we got to walk several miles along cliffs above the ocean. Beautiful. Path was narrowly hemmed in between fenced farms with cattle and edge of cliff. Occasionally narrow turnstyles had to be traversed. Had a chance to get down to the beach at one point. As with most of the trip, the weather was nice, though in this case quite cloudy.

Came back to Ballycotton and ate a pleasant lunch at the Bayview Hotel, sitting on a sofa. Walking on the way back to the car, we spoke with a (typically) funny, pleasant Irishman, probably around our age, then met 4 of his sisters, one of whom said they came from a family of 16 children.

Back at the motel in Cork, someone mistakenly set off a fire alarm. The staff frantically turned it off, but once activated, it kept going off every 2 minutes or so for about an hour before someone could come fix it. The husband of the manager had to stand next to a control panel, wait for the alarm to start again, then re-set it.

Day 9 - May 26 [Mon]

Blarney

Visited Blarney Castle and gardens. Bob kissed Blarney Stone, giving him the gift of gab. Getting up, then down, the castle to the Blarney Stone, involved a steep, winding staircase going up and down castle towers. Much ado about difference between blarney and baloney. Blarney is being pleasant, complimentary, and misleading in order to get your way. Baloney is much less pleasant. Then we visited a poison garden (which included marijuana plants), a fern walk and other gardens along a stream. On the one hand pretty, but on the other hand a feeling of Disneyland - a manufactured, pretty, tourist draw.

Ate lunch in Blarney at the Lemon Tree Cafe.

Day 10 - May 27 [Tue]

Cork City Center
Caught a bus into the center of Cork and spent the day walking around and looking at shops. We visited an art museum, where we met a couple from Sacramento, CA. Of course we talked about narrow streets, and parking thereon, etc. We visited the city market which reminded us both of the market in Philadelphia, which we visited when we David was considering attending Drexel. We met a guy from the US who had moved to Ireland - his wife was Irish.

Ate at the Farm House Cafe. Later, Bob took a video of wildlife - a crow busily finishing off the remains of a Subway meal.

Day 11 - May 28 [Wed]

Cork to Dingle
Drove from Cork to Dingle, via the coastline past Skibereen. Toured the Bantry House and gardens.

Had to detour in Kenmore and take another route to Killarney. While driving part of the ring of Dingle, had a chance to video a bus coming through a tight, one-lane tunnel. Except for the tunnel, the road as you can see, is relatively wide for Ireland. Other parts have no shoulders, are still narrower, and have hedges/cliff edges instead of the shoulders. While waiting for the bus to pass, Bob spoke with the nearby sheep, as he often does with animals. At one point we stopped and got down to beach, where Bob got his shoes wet.

Finally drove into Dingle and had to ask where the Dingle ESK View B&B was, then ate at the highly recommended/rated Out of the Blue restaurant. Average, yet expensive, food. Then we attended a folk concertat the St. James Church, which was very nice. Learned that the Irish had re-designed the bag pipe so it was inflated by using the legs. The music, particularly by the older, more experienced performers, was just enchanting. There was also a young man and woman who sang and played guitar. She was a street musician.

Day 12 - May 29 [Thu]

Ring of Dingle, Cliff Walks, Murphy's
Drove counter clockwise along part of the Ring of Dingle, visiting the Blasket Island Center, which tells the story of Irish who settled a nearby island, and then eventually had to abandon it. Paths lead from the Center to wonderful walks along the cliffs, which we took. From time to time we had to climb over fences, in this case confining sheep, giving Bob another chance to converse with sheep. Fog was rolling in and out.

Then drove Slea Head Drive for a bit (ring of Dingle), which we thought of as "thrills, spills, and chills". At one point the road was not wide enough to allow a charter bus coming from the other direction to pass, so it stopped next to a place where Bob could pull off onto a small, dirt opening beside the road. The bus started by, then stopped, there was some loud discussion, then Bob realized there was an SUV directly behind him which could not pull forward onto the dirt enough to let the bus by. So Bob pulled forward several inches, the SUV pulled forward, and the bus was just able to get by the SUV.

Ate in Dingle at Murphy's Pub which was very, very good. Then found Murphy's Ice Cream Parlor, which sold addictive ice cream. We started with the smallest cup, split between rum/raisin and raspberry sherbet. Decided we had to get another small one just of rum/raisin. Server sold us that, but commented that her favorite, even better than rum/raisin was a coffee ice cream. We ate the rum/raisin, but decided to get a taste of the coffee, which was free. Then we got a small serving of the coffee and escaped from Murphy's Ice Cream Parlor.

Day 13 - May 30 [Fri]

Dingle to Limerick; Bun Ratty Castle
Drove from Dingle to Limerick, where we stayed at a Travelodge. On the way stopped at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.

Day 14 - May 31 [Sat]

Limerick; Cliffs of Moher; The Burren; Edge of Tomorrow
Had another nice walk along cliffs on the sea coast. Saw parts of The Burren, an area of limestone rocks which looked quite different from the green expanses we had been seeing through most of Ireland. Saw the Dolmen Tomb in The Burren, which may be as old as 6,000 years, built back during the Neolithic age.

In the evening, Bob drove into Limerick to see the just released movie Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise in a time travel movie. Bob liked it a lot (as did critics and audience on rottentomatoes.com, particularly seeing the role at the beginning of the movie where Tom Cruise plays a sleezebag coward and does it well.

Day 15 - June 1 [Sun]

Limerick to Galway; Corrib View B&B; Galway center city;
Had a nice drive along major highway to Galway and found the Wood Haven Street cul-de-sac, which was composed mostly of B&B's and backed onto Merlin Park. The couple running our place (with black shutters below) were so very nice and, as it turned out, were about to leave on an anniversary trip their kids had arranged, so the next day their Mother took over. We met two young ladies (some dispute here, Shirley thought they were two friends, Bob thought they were mother/daughter), who had hoped to spend another night at the place, but had to choose another nearby B&B. Spoke with them at length about their European travels. They were so engaging and pleasant.

Took the bus into the city center - Eyre Square, then walked along quay. Guys were playing soccer in kayaks. Later, a ball falls off the wall into the inlet and a guy gets in his kayak on the wall and then drops off the wall, a fall of maybe 10 or more feet. Got a video of it. Also saw swans and their offspring.

Day 16 - June 2 [Mon]

Kylemore Abbey; Connemara Nature Park; Midges; Peat Bog; New Room
The drive to Kylemore Abbey included sheep on the road shoulders and beautiful, wild and huge rhododendrums in full pink bloom climbing up the hillsides. Kylemore Abbey was very posh and the original owner died a pauper after buying/building it for his wife, using his father's fortune to do so. Included a 6 acre walled garden. However, it also was home to many, many small biting insects called midges. The gardeners wore mosquito nets. We cut our visit short, although we did see the grounds and abbey. Ate at the Mitchell's Cafe on the grounds. Bob ordered the salmon and spinach, not realizing it was quiche, not actual food. One bite was all he could take.

Next stop was Connemara Nature Park, which had Bog Road. Midges really like boggy areas, so that walk was cancelled. Fascinating bit of info from visitor center - much of bog land was created by humans when they cut/burned down forests thousands of years ago, after the last ice age. Bogs replaced the forests. We then did stop at an actual, working bog. Saw peat bricks and layers of bog strata. Pretty neat. Took a while to find our way back to Galway, but we made it.

Back at the B&B we were moved to a different room to accomodate the mother of the owners (Yvonee and Liem), who had taken over. The new room was very nice, probably the best place we stayed on the trip. Yvonne's mother was Maureen, who told us her kid's cousin owns a bar in San Francisco, The Irish Bank, just off Bush Street. Ronan and Emily own the bar and are first cousins to Yvonne.

Maureen, who was married to a sheep ranch owner, was able to explain to us finally a question we had about sheep - why are some of them painted with either red and/or blue spots. It was for ownership purposes because they sometimes graze on areas that are common with other ranches. Ear tags are also used.

Day 17 - June 3 [Tue]

Galway Town Center
Took bus into Galway, saw shops and street performers, visited St. Nicholas Cathedral. Galway bay video

Day 18 - June 4 [Wed]

Galway to Dublin; Bog; Town of Swords
Easy drive to Dublin from Galway, with a stop at a large bog with a wooden walkway in Clara. Lots of red sundew plants in bog. After checking into Travelodge north of Dublin Airport (not the one we started the trip at), we walked into the nearby village of Swords. Stumbled into an absolutely huge, underground shopping mall called the Pavilions.

Day 19 - June 5 [Thu]

Veg out day before flying home
Did a test run into the Sixt rental car place and determined it would be trivial the next morning. Walked into Swords again, saw a very old and run down church with a graveyard, walked around a castle/park, ate at Indie Spice restaurant, shopped at the huge mall, where Bob bought a Euromillions ticket for 2 Euros, firmly believing - as always - it would be the winning ticket, hence providing in this case 90 million Euros in cash. Worried about how to claim the winning from the US.

Day 20 - June 6 [Fri]

Fly Home
Turned in the car, caught the airplane, flew for 10 1/2 hours, from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM, caught the bus and a taxi, and arrived home. A fabulous vacation. Sadly, Bob discovered he had NOT won the Euromillions lottery. However, he confidently invested 2 dollars in the Powerball lottery.

Contact/Website Author:
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
July, 2011

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