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July 05, 2008

Finally, Ireland trip summary!

Okay, I've procrastinated enough! The pictures are all uploaded, tagged and notated on Flickr, and I've changed my photos in the sidebar to pull from that set.

We left Phoenix on Monday, June 16th - only to be delayed by weather in New York, causing us to miss our connecting flight to Dublin from JFK airport. We'd had a generous, 5 hour layover, so that shows just HOW badly we were delayed, and how we went from being relaxed to being extremely anxious and stressed out. We landed at JFK at 11:30 local time, so naturally all the desks were closed and there was no one to talk to about rescheduling our flight. Also, because everyone was delayed, all the local hotels were booked. We ended up sleeping on the floor in Terminal 7, along with a few dozen other refugees. We didn't really sleep. The U.S. Airways desk opened at 4:30 AM, and we were there on the dot to reschedule our flight - luckily, we got on the next flight to Dublin, but unluckily, it wasn't until 5:00 PM. We spent the whole day in a daze in the airport, but it wasn't so bad once the Samuel Adams pub opened and we could sit in comfort with some food and beer. We had a blissfully uneventful flight to Dublin, arriving at 5:00 AM on Wednesday, June 18th - a day later than planned. We kept our reservation at the Ferryview Guesthouse in Clontarf (a Dublin suburb) for the night of the 17th so that we could check in early, get some breakfast, and crash for a long nap. Then we ventured out briefly into the city, before zonking out again at 8:00 PM and sleeping a solid 12 hours.

On Thursday, refreshed and recovered, we went out for some real sight-seeing. First, to Trinity College so I could pay my respects to the Book of Kells and the Long Room, a must for any librarian. Then we wandered around some of the shopping areas, ate some lunch in Temple Bar, and visited Christ Church Cathedral. The afternoon got a little rainy, so we wandered over to the Old Jameson Distillery for the tour and in the hopes that Chris would get picked to be a whiskey taster (I'd done this on our previous Ireland trip, and wanted Chris to match me in whiskey-tasting certification). He did, and we enjoyed the tour just as much as we did the first time.

Friday, we caught the train to Killarney and met fantasy author C.E. Murphy on the train. We had a great chat with her until we had to transfer trains - she was going on to Cork. It was a beautiful day, and we booked a nice B&B, Rosslands House, on the outskirts of town. Killarney is a very busy, very touristy town, especially on a Friday night, so we were grateful the B&B was a good 15 minute walk away. Our hostess was extremely pleasant and suggested an evening walk down to Ross Castle, then back up the footpath along the lake into town, which we followed. It was beautiful, exactly what we needed to feel like we were really on vacation in Ireland. We finished up our evening at the Flesk Restaurant, and chatted with some fellow tourists from the U.K. - a pair of old army buddies and their wives, who'd never been to Ireland before. I want to say that meeting so many different folks was one of the best parts of our trip. People are so friendly!

The next day, we rented our bikes despite the cloudy day. We were certain it would rain some, so we stopped at the outlet mall (yes, Killarney has an outlet mall, it really made us feel at home) to pick up some rain covers for our backpacks. We were determined to set off, so set off we did towards Killorglin in a steady drizzle, which turned into a solid rain not long after we left town. We were soaked to the skin, but the rain let up after a while, so the last half of our ride was fairly dry, and despite being wet, it was beautiful along some back country roads. We were still pretty damp when we arrived in Killorglin, though. We found a nice B&B, Hilltop Rise, and the hostess was kind enough to let us do a little laundry. The weather dried up enough for us to stroll into town for some dinner, but started sprinkling on us again on our way back to the B&B.

Sunday, which was my birthday, was cloudy in the morning, but cleared up pretty well by 11:00, so we headed off. Our goal was to get to Cahersiveen, which was a good long ride. The weather held up, sunny, but quite breezy. We rode through Glenbeigh (had lunch at the Old Glenbeigh Hotel), along the coast, up a hugely steep hill (by "ride" here, I mean pushed our bikes on foot), down a busy freeway, then through Kells and pleasantly along some country roads into town. The last half of our ride was quite nice, other than we were exhausted from the hills, long ride, and ill-fitting bike seats. We checked into the Sive Hostel (which is where Chris had worked 15 years ago), and went to a nice birthday dinner at the Watermarque Hotel.

Monday was a beautiful day, and we foolishly decided to take a break from riding after our long day on Sunday, and spent most of the day relaxing around town and in our room. Tuesday, it was again pouring rain, but again, we were determined to continue - if we wanted to complete the Ring of Kerry, we needed to keep going. However, I wanted to detour to Ballinskelligs to visit the Skelligs Chocolate Company. This turned out to be quite foolish - the rain really came down, the wind was strong enough to seriously impede cycling, and visibility was, alas, quite poor. This could have been a gorgeous ride - what little we could see through the rain was breathtaking, but the weather was against us. We entered the chocolate company like two drowned rats, pitifully bought some chocolate, then reluctantly went back out. We forced ourselves to cycle the rest of the way to Ballinskelligs, and checked into the hostel there. At this point, we reviewed the forecast (more rain through the rest of the week), decided that we were on vacation not boot camp, and gave up the idea of finishing the Ring. It cleared up enough for us to walk down to the pub for dinner and go for a nice walk around the town. Ballinskelligs is off the tourist-beaten path and is quite nice and quiet.

Wednesday was quite nice in the morning, though the clouds looked a little threatening still, so we hopped back on the bikes for Waterville. We had decided to stay in the Bru na Dromoda Hostel, which is about 8 miles outside of town in the village of Killeenleagh - a beautiful, remote, Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) community, which ended up being one of the loveliest places we'd been, and our favorite place to stay on our trip. The weather held through Wednesday, allowing us to bike into Waterville for a nice dinner, but it rained all day on Thursday. We sat in the airy common room and read, watched some TV, and staring out the window at the soggy countryside. We couldn't have picked a better place to be rained in - there was a little store next door, so there was plenty of food, and we were the only guests so we had the place to ourselves.

We decided to go to Waterville the next day, and planned on taking a bus (with the bikes) back to Killarney on Saturday, which worked out just fine. Back in Killarney, we spent a little time in the library, had some dinner, and saw the new Indiana Jones movie in the local Cineplex. We stayed in the same B&B we had earlier, since it was so pleasant.

Sunday, our last full day in Ireland, we again followed our hostess's suggestion and had a fantastic day in Killarney National Park viewing the Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, the Muckross Traditional Farms, and Muckross Abbey. We probably hiked a good 9 miles throughout the day, but it was totally worth it. Of course, it was a beautiful sunny day, the best we saw throughout our trip, and we were convinced it was because we'd turned in the bikes.

Monday it was the early train back to Dublin, a bus to the airport, and plane back to New York. We arrived home Tuesday morning.

So, even though we didn't make our goal of cycling around the Ring of Kerry, we still had a great time, with lots of adventures. We are certain we COULD have done it if it hadn't been for the lousy weather - we'd already cycled the most challenging roads and knew we could handle anything that lay ahead. Just not in the rain. And the wind.

In any case, these two home-bodies were very happy to be home.

4 comments:

  1. I've read C.E. Murphy's stuff, it's not bad. Cool you got to meet her.

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  2. Ah, I'm ridiculously jealous. Now you've been to Ireland twice and I've been zero! When Nate graduates from law school, it'll coincide with our tenth wedding anniversary, so we're thinking big trip that year. I should get you for my travel guide. :)

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  3. Sounds like an adventure! I'd love to go back and spend more time. Weren't you surprised by how small the Book of Kells was?

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  4. Have just opened my European journal from '94 and looked and drooled at the Long Room in Trinity Library and much of it.

    And no, this wasn't intentional. I was looking over the Munich parts as my cousin Clara, her husband and kids have a lay-over there and I can't remember what I did there. Unfortunately, much of what I did there is too special to take a 4 year old and an 8 year old to.

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