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By this Author: nat-ali

Ireland to Paris

semi-overcast 14 °C

Our last morning, and the weather seems the best of the whole week! We can see patches of blue sky through the clouds! We finally got to see the Castle that we've been staying at the manor all along. It was alot like the Empress in Victoria. After checking out, we went to Bunratty Castle near the airport for our final few hours. It was well restored, in contrast to the rest of the dilapidated castles we've seen along the way. And though there were a few busloads of Irish students on field trip and American retirees, we were there early enough that it wasn't much of a bother. We were also too early for a pint in the famous pub, Durty Nelly's, but we've had our fill of Guinness and Jameson over the week.

Finally we got to the airport and flew to Paris in blue skies. We had no trouble getting the train into Paris, as we had practiced on the way in. Managed to find our hotel near the Louvre, and had a wonderful dinner in the corner cafe. Then we walked down to the Seine to see the sunset over Paris, and all the people sitting out on the bridge over the river enjoying their wine and cheese and sunset. We walked through the grounds of the Louvre, and took the metro to the Arch de Triomphe, getting there just in time to see it illuminated. It was a long way to the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to view the nightly lighting from the top of the Arch. Unfortunately, we didn't figure on the French prerogative to close the observation deck 10 minutes before the lighting! So we only saw the top tip of the tower sparkling, but by that point we were worn out anyway. Another disappointment came when we got off the metro at the Louvre and the glass pyramid was not illuminated, but the building and the reflecting pools were, so we still got a couple of night pictures.

We collapsed into bed this night more exhausted than any before. An aside, our hotel rooms were tiny, even by European standards! Poor 6'4 Chris could barely fit in the phone booth size shower! But we were so tired any horizontal place to sleep would be much better than sleeping on the plane tomorrow.

Posted by nat-ali 15:45 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Cobh

& Jameson Distillery

semi-overcast -10 °C
View Eire 2009 on nat-ali's travel map.

We made a marathon of our last full day in Ireland. After sleeping off the residual effects of jet-lag, we had breakfast in the villa and then hit the road 90km to the Southeast corner of Ireland, starting with the port city of Cobh, the final departure point of the Titanic and the Luisitania. The city itself is much like San Francisco, hills winding up from the harbor and pastel colored victorian row houses. The most prominent feature is the cathedral, and it is most magnificent with its stained glass, sculptures, and mosaics. There happened to be a bicycle race finishing in town, which seemed to bring out every police officer in County Cork, greatly outnumbering tourists in town! Along the way we saw another falling down castle, with a real estate sign on it saying "For Sale: 800 year old Castle!"

Our next stop was the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, a highlight of the trip for the boys, who enjoyed a tour and whiskey tasting, while the girls waited in the tasting room with an Irish Coffee. This was the first place that was filled with tourist buses, and we even ran into a couple we had met in the pub in Doolin! It was nice to feel familiar with someone, even thousands of miles from home! Seems to representative of the culture of Ireland as making aquaintance of strangers over a pint. A little old man from Cork told me a whole story, of which I understood barely a word, except the punchline, "An eet was a veery deerty mouse!" Wish I could have understood the rest of it through his Irish brogue!

Although it was getting late, we continued our tour of Co. Cork, on to the Rick Steves recommended harbor town of Kinsale, where we got to the Star Fort just after the drawbridge closed for the night, but we followed the trail to the beach below to look up on the fortification.

With our remaining daylight, we took the coastal route to Clonakilty, which from the pictures looks like a tiny old mill town on a river, but is actually a typical suburb at a junction of motorways. And the most photographed pub in Ireland, An Teach Baeg, was closed during the week, so I had to make do with a CD recording of the music sessions. Even though it wasn't what I expected, I'm glad we made it there so I wouldn't wonder what we missed, like with Killarney. It was then a long drive home to Adare for our final sleep in the villa, and yet we haven't even had time to see the castle! Tomorrow morning, when we check out.

Posted by nat-ali 15:29 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Doolin

storm -10 °C
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We've hit our stride as a travelling party, and we're designing a travel guide by Fat Tony and the Cheap Buggers. After figuring out how to pay only one admission to recon photographs, today we devolved into taking pictures without even getting out of the car! What a change from the other day when it took us 4 hours to go 11km, stopping to get out and take pics every 200m, now the castles and panoramas are becoming a dime a dozen. How decadent! :) The wind and rain isn't helping our motivation to enjoy the scenery up close. The storm pursued us North this time to Galway where we stopped to see the Saturday market at the Cathedral. We are beginning to see why the Irish spend so much time in pubs and churches with this weather! So, appropriately, we went on to Doolin for an evening in the pub. This time, though we stuck to one, which was conveniently located 50m from our B&B. Supposed to be where the locals play music, but as far as we could tell, the only locals were the bartender and the musicians. We met very nice people from Switzerland, France, and a family from Philadelphia who remind me of the Fitterers.

Today we made our way around the Burren, a region of limestone outcrops and the Cliffs of Moher. We managed to get soaked through in a half an hour, hence staying in the car the rest of the day. Luckily, the landscape of Ireland lends itself to leisurely scenic drives, and we're even getting much more confident on the road. Along the way we stopped at a craft market where I bought an Irish doll, and got regaled with a 45 minute introduction/gossip session of the area and its inhabitants! And finally arriving back in Adare we saw our first Irish rainbow in a break in the storm! The village of Adare had a weekend festival on, which we mostly missed, but got out to the pub this evening and joined the merriment. There were a whole bunch of guys singing Irish songs and holding up a trophy, apparently won some soccer tournament, so were quite lively in the pub! When the music began, however, it was not Irish music, but John Denver's Country Roads and Don McLean's American Pie! At least everyone was singing along, and I got some video. We looked for someone to join us at our table, and it ended up being another American couple staying at the Manor. We were laughing about singing along to American songs on a Sunday night in a packed pub in Ireland. When else will we have this opportunity?

Posted by nat-ali 11:54 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Greetings from the Emerald Isle!

Know what keeps it so green? ...

all seasons in one day -10 °C
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We've made our first excursion in Ireland. After arriving (delayed) from Paris at 10pm Wednesday night, we managed to navigate our way from Shannon airport to Adare Manor in the dark, on the wrong side of the road, with no incidents. Or so we thought. When we got up Thursday morning (at 10am, after 10 hours of sleep recouping from 36 hours since our last sleep) we found the trim piece missing from the passenger side mirror. None of us remembered hitting anything, but we certainly had some close calls along the narrow streets. So we were faced with the quandary, our very first morning, of reporting damage to Dan Dooley Car Rentals. Upon further investigation, however, we found evidence that this was pre-existing damage. Phew!

So we began our morning by going into Adare Village and finding a cafe still serving breakfast, where we were invited to share a table with a red-haired lady from Co. Kerry who served as an orientation guide to Ireland over an Irish breakfast of eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, toast, and tomato. With full bellies and better spirits, we hit the road for Dingle, about 90 km on the Southwest corner of Ireland. As we drove the darkening clouds turned into a smattering of rain. Inhibited some of the panoramic views, but it keeps the place green!

We arrived at our B&B, Pax House, the #1 highest reviewed and most referred B&B in all of Ireland, and were greeted by John, the personable host, and Rio, his doggy in a cone Elizabethan collar. As soon as we dropped our bags, we braved the weather and walked the 1km into town to warm up in Murphy's pub for dinner. Over the course of the evening we warmed up in 5 of Dingle's (pop. 1500) 43 pubs, including Dick Mack's, a shoestore/pub with patrons passing around a guitar to play tunes; An Droichead Beag (The Little Bridge) where we celebrated our anniversary with a pint and read the "Rules of a Happy Marriage" posted on the wall and enjoyed traditional bodhran music played by the very same musician on the Rick Steves video; and Foxy Johns, a hardware store/bicycle rental/pub, where a local character tried to sell us a Rolex and taught me the Irish for "Thank You", "Excuse Me", and "Kiss My Arse!". Unfortunately, the 1km walk back to the B&B was in a full blown storm, luckily the wind (and rain) was at our back "helping" us up the hill. :)

This morning we saw a glimmer of hope as the sun tried to break through the clouds, so we went on with our scenic tour of the Dingle Peninsula, stopping at the historical ruins of the Iron age Dunbeg Fort, prehistoric Fahan beehive huts, and the 7th century Gallarus Oratory. We quickly learned that paying 4 admissions fees for duplicate pictures of dilapidated ruins was adding up, so we designated one person to pay admission and take photos at each site. After all, our favorite sights of the day were free, and not listed on the tourist map: the Dunquin Pier shown on postcards with sheep being herded up the narrow switchbacks next to the crashing surf and jagged rocks, and the Kilmalkedar church with its graveyard full of celtic crosses and views of sheep pastures down to the bay.

After what felt like covering miles and miles of panoramic peninsula and stopping for photo opportunites all day, we were suprised to find we were only 15 km outside Dingle at the end of the day! We came back into town for a quick fish and chips and delicious seafood chowder dinner, followed by Guinness ice cream at Murphy's to fortify us for the dusk drive back to Adare.

The weather cooperated today, although blustery, and the forecast is for stormy weather the rest of the week. We always seem to bring this weather with us when we travel. It's nice to have travelling companions this time though. Tonight we're staying in our Villa at Adare Manor, and tomorrow driving up to Galway for the Saturday market and overnight in Doolin for more traditional music. Not to worry, there's only 3 pubs in the whole town, child's play. :)

Posted by nat-ali 13:30 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Paris layover

all seasons in one day -8 °C
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Bonjour from Paris! We have now been awake for 24 hours, and are awaiting our flight from Paris to Shannon. We landed in Paris at 9am local time (midnight home time) and made a whirlwind tour of Paris. It was like the Amazing Race, getting through customs, deciphering the automated train kiosk, and taking the train into central Paris, popping up in the shadow of Notre Dame, searching for a cash machine so we could get an espresso and a nutella crepe, then finding the Metro station to take us to the Eiffel Tower. The day was hazy and muggy, and we were tired from the flight and lugging our carry-on baggage along, but seeing Paris albeit briefly beat sitting at the airport watching CNN. This was definitely the most challenging day of the trip, what with travel and sleep deprivation and luggage hauling and foreign language, but matters will improve greatly tomorrow when we have had a full night’s sleep and use of a car to explore an English speaking country and enjoy libations at a pub! As for the rest of Paris, we will return to spend the night at the end of our trip, so see the “City of Lights” at its best.

As it were, we had plenty of time to watch CNN at the airport after all. Just as we were loading our bus to board the plane, all flights were grounded for a sudden storm, and we watched the lightning from the terminal for an hour. Finally we got to take off, 2 hours after our scheduled departure, and arrived Shannon Ireland at 10pm, making for an exhausted and tense drive to Adare Manor in the dark, on the wrong side of the road, grateful to collapse into our beds after 30 waking hours for 10 hours of sleep. I didn't anticipate this entry to have so much excitement as everything went well in Paris. Too well. We knew that an uninterrupted itinerary was too good to be true! Just hope we've exhausted our bad luck for the rest of the trip!

Posted by nat-ali 15:04 Archived in France Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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