Shouting into the Storm
Rantings, ramblings, observations and musings from the insipid to the sublime
Monday, May 22, 2006 :::
Here is a sampling of the photos we have from the honeymoon. I think it hits all of the major points. http://www.flickr.com/photos/61095036@N00/sets/72057594138748852/
::: posted by Chris at 10:41 AM
Bunratty/Boston/DC - Day 9
Friday, May 19, 2006 :::
Not much to write about for the last day in Ireland. We awoke to a steady rain, and that's about what we had all day. We went down to Bunratty Castle and wandered around. It was fine, nothing special. Ditto the folk village attached to it. Might have been nice with out all the wind and rain, but again, I'm not complaining.
Everything about the flight home was flawless. Easy through security, easy through customs, and easy flight back.
So, that's it. Thanks for reading along. I'll have one more post wrapping up some of the highlights, and things we would have done differently. Also, a link to the photos I've put up on Flikr.
::: posted by Chris at 10:17 AM
The Burren/Bunratty - Day 8
Wednesday, May 17, 2006 :::
Sitting here using free Internet at the Shannon airport. You hear that, US companies? That's the sound of Europe eating your lunch.
Our last night in Doolin was just about as perfect as you could imagine. We had dinner at the Doolin Cafe, listening to great music on the cd player. It was nice to not eat pub grub for a night. Afterwards, we went down to the pier and walked along the rocks and talked to the cows. We even stopped to take a few pictures of the Doolin pitch-n-put. For a course full of 50 yard holes, with the winds off the ocean and the rolling hills, it looks tough. Our pub of the the night was McGaan's, and it was far and away the best of the trip. Tremendous music, and great singing by the bar owner. We escaped with out anyone dropping beer on us, which is even better.
The next morning, we took the long way around to Bunratty. We drove along the Coast Road along the edge of the Burren. At one point, the road was barely 2 cars wide, with only a stone wall between us and a plunge into the icy Atlantic. Did I love it? You betcha. Saw lots of ruins while meandering down to Ennis. Lovely little town, and a nice place to just stroll. Lunch in a pub a spot of tea, then off to the old Abbey and cathedral in the middle of town. From there, it was barely a half our to Bunratty and our hotel for the evening. I was particularly pleased that they have a small vessel of sherry in the room. A wonderful way to start the wrapup part of the trip.
Our big splurge for the trip was dinner the last night. Dromoland Castle is the perfect example of a renovated, high-end castle. Acres upon acres of land, all groomed to what the Lords and Ladies of the day would have had. The British may have totally f'd over the Irish, but they sure had style. Unfortunately, it was more style than Marissa and I could handle. We felt very out of place, what with all the 18th century paintings on the wall and all that. I give the staff at the castle and the restaurant a ton of credit. They treated us like all of the old white folk that were there for the evening. The somalier was particularly friendly and helpful. Apparently he studied in Austria how to taste and recommend wines. Good gig. Dinner was appropriately fantastic. Poached lobster for me, steak for Marissa, and killer desserts for both of us. Plus a very strong Irish coffee to wrap it all up.
And with that, we grabbed a pint back at the hotel, and called it a night. Perfect end to a perfect trip.
::: posted by Chris at 10:08 AM
Doolin - Day 7
Monday, May 15, 2006 :::
Boy, a week our here. Things are starting to blur together. Or that could just be the after effects of today's boat rides.
So, here we are, still in Doolin. And we finally found the type of pubs we've been searching for. O'Connor's and McDermott's are both homey, down to earth places with great live traditional music. We hit O'Connor's for dinner while a family of about 8 played in the middle of the room. McDermott's is across the street from our BnB. A few pints consumed, and some yahoo spilled another one on me. The older gent next to me also got splashed. When he pointed out to the guy he didn't appreciate it, and why didn't he apologize, The Spiller(who looked like a pudgy John Lithgow) turned an asked if he wanted to step outside. "I've been going to pubs for fifty years and I ain't never stepped outside." And then he muttered something to the guy in gaelic that sounded appropriately insulting. Good times.
Today we awoke to an awful cold rain. Things were not boding well for a good trip out to the Aran Island. Luckily, Marissa still has a little bit of weather luck in her, and skies cleared up before our ferry landed at Innismorr. It's an odd place. The entire island is marked out with stone walls that date back to the 8th century or so. The soil is littered with rocks, so the early settlers decided to dig them up and actually farm. Well, what to do with all the rocks? Build walls, that's what. The highlight of the trip was the walk up to the Don Aungus fort. It's right on top of a 100 meter high cliff. If you put your ear to the ground, you can hear the Atlantic crashing against the rocks below. And, much like the Cliffs of Moher, no safety fences. With the winds so strong up there, tourists have actually gotten too close and been blown off the edge. Tough way to die, as a public spectacle and all.
This is probably our last internet stop of the trip. Tomorrow we're taking the scenic route through The Burren, then back down to Bunratty. We have a swanky dinner reservation at Dromoland Castle to put a nice end to the trip. Then it's time to jump on a plane and head back home. This has been an excellent trip, and a great honeymoon.
::: posted by Chris at 12:45 PM
Doolin - Day 5
Sunday, May 14, 2006 :::
Our last night in Killarney was solid, if unspectacular. The local soccer team won the league championship, so we got to watch real soccer nuts celebrate like lunatics. Lots of drunken singing and dancing in the streets. We had a pint at the pub our driver/guide recommended(Buckley's) and it was everything we could hope for. Five guys sitting on a couch playing traditional Irish folk music while I was nursing my pint. We also met a group of middle aged women on a bus tour. As they walked in, the lead hen, wearing what Marissa called "Standard American Tourist Pink", was squaking away. I announced that I'd bet any amount of money that she was at least an East Coaster, and probably from NY or NJ. With a little small talk, and retelling of some of the Sick Crow Joke, I discover I was right. She's in Syracuse, but grew up in northern NJ.
One downside was that Saturday night in Killarney is like Saturday night everywhere. Tons and tons of drunk young folk out for an evening of drinking and whoring. And the girls were more than willing to dress the part of the whores, so all was in order with the universe.
We also came to the conclusion we didn't want to go to Galway. Galway looks like a charming city and all that, but it is a city. Two tour books describe the city as potential automotive gridlock. No thanks. We decided to call the travel company and see what they could do. Of course, we forgot it is Sunday.
Regardless, off we went to Doolin by way of the Cliffs of Moher (I can't find a good link, sorry). Another of those "Words can not describe it" places. Not only is it grgeous, but it is intimidating. Giant cliffs climbing out of the rugged Atlantic coast. Whitecaps crashing against the rocks below while gulls cry in the wind. The pictures don't really let you feel the open space, or the wildness of it. I can imagine the Vikings coming along and either thinking "Let's find someplace else" or, knowing the Vikings, "Looks like an interesting challenge. Let's go."
Two more notes on the Cliffs. Yesterday on the Ring of Kerry, I can't imagine doing it in bad weather. You really need clear, sunny skies for it. Here, it's been foggy and drizzling/raining all day. While the views aren't as good, I think the grey weather adds to the mystery of the place. It's a rugged area, and rugged weather accentuates that. And one small disappointment - they are in the process of building a real visitor's center, and doing some work on the trails along the cliffs. We weren't able to get to several of the key vantage points because they are closed for the year. Oh well, we'll just have to come back.
We found Doolin with little trouble, by our standard. We're checked in for the night, and already booked for a 2nd night. The plan is to grab dinner and spend the night in the pubs. Doolin is known for it's excellent traditional live music. I plan on enjoying it to the fullest. Tomorrow we're going to explore the Burren area (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burren). Maybe hit the Aran Islands if the weather is OK. If not, car hop around and hit the old castles and ruins. There are several small villages in the area, which will make for great tea and lunch breaks.
Much better than holding our nose and dealing with Galway. Maybe next trip.
::: posted by Chris at 11:45 AM
Killarney - Day 5
Saturday, May 13, 2006 :::
My initial impression of Killarney was wrong. It isn't like Gatlinburg at all. Actually, it reminds me more of a place like Burlington, Vermont. Killarney sits at the edge of Killarney National Park, which is about a million acres and has roughly that many options of things to do. We got a little taste of that today on our bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. Too many cool sights and sounds to describe here. The tour was roughly 6 hours long, following roughly this route. We saw mountains, rivers, sheep farms, coastlines and more. Off the top of my head, the highlights were the *STRONG* Irish coffee at our first stop, the crazy border collies and the sheppard, and an excellent view over two bays. Seriously, go Google Ring of Kerry and enjoy.
Two more notes about the tour. We got stuck in front of a few high school kids from the States. They were painfully unfunny, very unhip, and they were evangelical Christians. One had a shirt reading "Celibacy is for Lovers", the other "Pray to End Abortion". At one point they had an extended chat about their friend who they are in the middle of Converting. Like they were renovating a house or something. It was so tempting to toss something at them like "I'm glad we're married, because before we had gay lovers, lived in sin, had pre-martial sex, and heck, she's a heathen non-believer." But we didn't want to get their brains all over the bus. Because that would have pissed off our driver/guide/comedian, John. Lots of stories from John, but here's the best one:
A crow came up to a cow in the field, complaining of his health. "I'm done for, cow. My feathers are falling out, I'm losing weight, and I can't fly. It's been fun, though". The cow replies "Nonsense. Just follow me around for a few days and eat my droppings. You'll be right in no time." The crow, figuring he had nothing to lose, took him up on the offer. Sure enough, a few days later, he was feeling great. He could fly higher than before, caw louder, and was the picture of strength. To celebrate, he flew into the tree and caw'd at the top of his lungs. The farmer heard this, and annoyed to no end, got his gun and shot the crow dead. The moral of the story being that bullshit can get you to the top of the mountain, but can't keep you there.
Tonight it's off to dinner and a pub(both recommended by John our guide), and then off for an early-ish morning tomorrow. Directions claim a three hour drive to Doolin. What joy being in the car for that long. Again. If I had to guess, it won't be until we get to Galway that we'll have access to the 'Net. Hopefully at that time, we will have seen the Cliffs of Moher. Or we'll get hopelessly lost. Again. Who knows?
::: posted by Chris at 2:12 PM
Killarney - Day 4
Friday, May 12, 2006 :::
Today is probably our longest driving day. To break things up, we decided to hit another national historical site that was mostly on our way. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the Rock of Cashel (http://www.comhaltas.com/bru/Cashel.htm). Quick aside - you like the links? If somebody else has already written, there's no way I'm going to crank out 200 words. Who do you think I am, Bill Simmons?
A solid tour of the grounds of the Rock and a disappointing lunch of tea and cheese sandwhich(not grilled, just shredded chedder between bread). The driving today was on more narrow roads. Not difficult, but frustrating at times. Like when farm equipment would use the roads and go 30 kph, instead of the posted 100 kph. Blech. At least today, the roads dump you immediately into downtown Kilarney. Wiser than yesterday, we immediately parked and found the tourist information office. Armed with maps and information, we wandered around the town getting a general feel for things. My first impression is that this is a tourist town. It's nice, but almost feels like it is trying too hard. If it were in the States, it would probably be some monstrosity like Gatlinburg. Of course, had we been like Dubya, we'd have made all the same mistakes that we made yesterday, and then been baffled that the outcomes were the same.
We've checked in to our quaint BnB for the next two nights. The plan for tonight it to grab some dinner and a pint, maybe catch some traditional live music, and head back to the BnB. Tomorrow, we are signed up for a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry (aha, you thought there's be a link? Look it up yourself *grin*). While neither of us are huge fans of being on a bus all day, it should be a good day to recharge, enjoy the scenery, and get ready for the Doolin/Galway parts of the trip(hint - Cliffs of Moher, and the home of traditional music and pubs in all of Ireland)
::: posted by Chris at 1:52 PM
Kilkenney - Day 3
The trip continues to be a success, despite our honest efforts to the contrary.
Today was my first real attempt at driving in Ireland. The left-side-of-the-road thing was a breeze. The traffic was not. Shouldn't be much of a surprise. Dublin is a big, modern city, with big, modern traffic. At one point, it took us 20 minutes to get off of the ramp from a major highway. Once we were cleared of Dublin and it's immediate suburbs, things got much easier.
Roads here are labeled as either M, N, or R. Speed limit goes 120 kph, 100 kph and 80 kph. Going through towns, it's usually 50-60 kph.
After a somewhat arduous two hours, we arrived at the BnB. I was tired, hot, hungry, and tired of being in our tiny little car. And when I say tiny, I'm screwing around - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyundai_Atos What we find, instead, is a note saying "To check in, call 123-456-7890" Since we do not have cell phones, this is useless information. Instead, we jot down the number, get back into the car, and drive into downtown Kilkenney. It's a miracle the trip survived.
We didn't have a map, so finding our way around took some guess work. As is customary on a Chris and Marissa trip, all of our guesses were wrong. We made a complete loop around town completely by accident. By some force unknown to me, we ended up on main street. Streets in town are roughly 4 feet wide, and it's two lanes of cars. To say I was a bit frazzled at this point is an understatement.
The benefactor of all this was the first parking garage we found, and a rather lacklust pizza joint. At least we had some food, and a vague sense of where we were. And where was that? Well, only a 5 minute walk from Kilkenny Castle (http://www.kilkenny.ie/hist/castle.html). The tour was quite good, and it was enjoyable to hear more of the checkered history between the English and the Irish. The grounds of the place are enormous. After the castle, we just sort of wandered the streets of the city. Quite by accident we ran into all of the To Do tourist places. One of the cathedrals dates back to the 5th century. Now that's old.
Finally called the BnB to straighten things out, grabbed dinner at a newish pub, and headed out with a plan on having a quite, early evening.
An hour after checking in, Marissa suggests checking out the bar at the hotel 200 meters from our BnB. Hmm, sure, why not. The owner of the BnB recommends the pub next door, which is where we end up. And we finally, at long last, find our first real Irish pub. Complete with Resident Drunks, who were thrilled we were newlyweds. The only two things we could understand was "Where are the babies comin?" and "Do you like the bar? It's a piece of shit". Well then.
One last observation - we must be on the western edge of the time zone. It's daylight here until almost 10 pm.
::: posted by Chris at 1:11 PM