Friday, April 1, 2011


Primroses in Ireland and spring is coming to the mountains. Our forsythia, cherry trees and pears are all in bloom though it is colder here than in Ireland.

We are safely home again after a good flight from Dublin to Philadelphia, leaving Dublin about an hour late. We still made our connection to GSP, as that flight was late taking off as well. Our luggage, however, did not make it from Philly. We still haven't heard from the deivery team, so perhaps it won't get here until tomorrow. A little distressing.

Overall, we had a great trip. There is no travel that doesn't present unforeseen "bends." as the Irish road signs indicate, in the road. Besides the elevator "collapse" in Paris, we also had a "techno" toilet burn up its motor in Montpellier. It's ridiculous to feel responsibility for either malfunction - we did get on the elevator, and we did use the toilet. But, as someone said, "There are no bad travel experiences, only good travel stories." Be assured, we were very careful of elevators and electric toilets for the rest of the trip. Actually, we never encountered another of the latter. So, when we next see you, we can fill you in on the details of both.

It was interesting talking to waiters, cab drivers, bar tenders, sales clerks. They are remarkably well informed and talk about their country's problems, politicians, and economics as well as ours. It's surprising how many Irish and English, have traveled extensively in the US.

A big surprise was the high cost of food in Ireland. The restaurants at all levels, top to bottom, had higher prices than similar ones in which we ate in either London or Paris. Also, traveling in Europe, one can distinguish nationality quickly by language, and we heard little American English except at the major tourist sites in Ireland. I don't remember any Americans in Montpellier the entire two weeks we were there. None in Bern or on the trains we rode, and few in London. Maybe it was the time of year we chose to travel. Maybe Americans are staying home.

We have decided that travel is energizing, educational, and stressful. It is difficult to constantly try to translate or understand even a thick dialect of your own language. The money is different, the food tastes strange, the mattresses are hard, and the transitioning (whether by plane, train or driving) is a challenge. We can understand why many people don't want to move outside their own comfort zone of the familiar. That's good as it would be difficult to travel if everyone did it!

Our trains all ran on time, and Bill did very well driving on the left. Ireland has two disignations for secondary roads: N-roads and R-roads. We decided they stand for narrow and rough. I must say the new motorways are wonderful, and except for near Dublin, there is little traffic. We got lost once in Connemara, which is not surprising. All roads lead somewhere, and we ended up on a very N and R road which finally joined back up with the one we should have taken.

Let me hear from you. I'm glad so many friends and family came along on our trip through this blog. Please excuse spelling and grammar errors. I usually wrote in the late afternoons or under pressure to get back on the move to the next event.

It's time for a glass of wine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dublin Sunshine

Top to bottom: Dublin Castle, interior of City Hall, St. Stephen's Green, and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The sun came out nicely this morning, and the day got warmer as it got later. We walked (of course) to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Then, back to the hotel to do on-line check in. USAirways website was acting up, and we couldn't complete that operation. An hour and a half wasted. Doesn't it drive you nuts when what should be very simple is not attended to by a vendor? The front desk put me through on their toll free line, and I was told their techies had been working on it for some time now. Why isn't it fixed? Well, we'll go to the airport a little earlier and stand in line a little longer.

We then walked back downtown to St. Stephen's Green, a lovely park with primroses, tulips, hyacinths and daffodils all in bloom. The trees are beginning to put out new leaves and the grass if very green. Through the park and on to the National Museum which has a wonderful display of archeological artifacts from the entire history of Ireland, dating from 3600 BC. It's well-done and fascinating. There are displays of some beautiful gold jewelry from thousands of years ago. We had lunch in the cafe across from three representatives (politicians?) from the Houses of Parliament which is next door. Well, we saw them eating there and full of business on cell phones and conversing animatedly, and they were all too old to be civil servants, so they must be elected somebodies.

Then, the National Library with its beautiful reading room (no pictures, please) and a great exhibit on W. B. Yeats. Off to Dublin City Hall and the Dublin Castle. So, I guess we walked several miles, but it was a beautiful day and it's a fascinating city.

We fly out at 11:15 in the morning, and should be home tomorrow night. It's hard to believe the trip is over. Who wants to go next time?


We arrived at our hotel about 2:00 yesterday after a drive of about 3 hours on the motorway. Not a bad trip. We went from castle to Motel 6, but it's clean and okay. Only one more night. Leaving tomorrow from Dublin Airport at 11:15 on USAir. Looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tomorrow night.

We walked into the downtown area, slipped in to see the Book of Kells just before closing, and enjoyed Trinity College campus. Then crossed the River Liffy and back again, listened to some Irish folk music in the Oliver St. John Gogarty's Pub - a real treat. Dinner in the Bank Hotel Restaurant which was recommended, I don't know why, excpet the interior is gorgeous Victorian. Bill's steak and ale pie was tasteless, as was my "baby" chicken. The Irish do make great seafood chowder, however, and a bowl of that as starter will pretty much do for a meal.

It is raining in Dublin. Can't complain, as we've had a week of sunshine. It does make picture-taking difficult. I'll try to post some later this afternoon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Very Own Castle for the Night

The first and last pictures are of Dromoland Castle where we are staying tonight. There is something for everyone - a golf course, tennis courts, a walled rose garden, ducks to feed, a river for fishing, and a handsome falconer who demonstrates the talents and characteristics of birds of prey in the parkland. There is also a chef, a very formal restaurant, a less formal one, and also porters who look like they have been here since the turn of the last century and have manners to match. Lovely. For such a formal stately hotel, there are many families here with young children. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming.

The next pictures are of the Cliffs of Moher and Droghaire Castle, County Clare. I hope I've spelled the castle correctly. If your ancestors lived here, please excuse. The guidebook is in the car.

We drove out of Galway pretty easily with the help of TomTom. There are lots of new roundabouts and highways. We took the scenic route again, so it took us about 2 hours through the Burren to reach the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland is turning greener by the day as we move south and the weather remains beautiful. We have been lucky. There are now fruit trees in bloom, and the tulips are begining to open to join the daffodils. The cliffs are one of the major tourist attractions in Ireland, and we heard many more Americans there than anywhere else. We had lunch in the cafeteria restaurant.

Tomorrow we'll take the motorway all the way back east to Dublin.

Inishmor, Aran Islands

A forty-five minute ferry ride from the mainland is a world of rock walls, crashing surf, thatch-roofed cottages, and tour guides talking blarney. Only 800 residents on this island, but there are lots of tourists arriving on every ferry. I can't imagine what it might be like in summer. We had one of the best spring days yet this year, and everyone we met was out soaking up sunshine. The pony carts are used to give tourists a ride on the single lane and very narrow roads, but most of us ride in vans. We were driven from one end of the island to the other, about 9 miles, with a 2 hour stop at Dun Aegan, the 2000 year old fort. We had lunch in one of the cafes. It's an unusual place, and it looks like the people, both historic and contemporary had little to do but build stack stone walls. Cattle, sheep and goats graze in the tiny spaces between. There's even an ocassional donkey and pony.

It was a visit to a different world. Today, we are off the the Burrens, which we are told look much like the landscape in the islands.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Connermara, Galway, and the Aran Islands

I can't believe it was only yesterday we drove down from Westport through Connemara to our hotel in Salthill which is just outside Galway on the "beach." It's like a mini-mini Myrtle Beach here. Our hotel is very nice and very comfortable, but there are tour buses coming in, and tonight being Sunday, all the wrinklies are here for music and "dance" in the bar. I'm not sure what that is about, but maybe ballroom dancing????? Yesterday, when we arrived, there were tons of kids in the lobby from little ones to high school age. I don't know what that was about either - maybe the first weekend of spring or something. We prefer the wrinklies. They are much more quiet.

Connermara is a remarkable countryside - with lots of rocky landscape, not much green, and high rocky cliffs and mountains on either side of the road. We stopped at Croagh Patrick, but didn't have five hours to do the pilgrimage up and down, and then drove on to Leeanne, getting lost only once, and having lunch in a small pub there. It reminds us a lot of NZ. We arrived here at the Galway Bay Hotel about 2:00 p.m. The broadband connection in our room wasn't working, although a hotel "porter" (geek) tried to fix it. Tonight, it is now connected, so I guess he did something right. We ate dinner in the hotel - not great, but expensive.

Today, we got up early and took the ferry from Rossaveal to the largest of the Aran Islands. It was amazing. The scenery is unlike anything we have seen before. Lots of rocks! In fact, there are 7000 miles of rock walls - enough to reach to NY and back. They are all dry stack walls, and you can see light between the stacking. The fort on top of 400 foot cliffs is amazing, too. Back to the hotel about 6:30, and we hopped in a cab and went into Galway for a seafood supper and to hear traditional Irish music in pubs. Great evening. What a birthday! Thank you for all your very wonderful wishes.

The Knockranny Hotel, which was gorgeous and wonderful, in Westport is the top picture. Then, Croagh Patrick, and the Loo Lough (Black Lake in Connemara) and a dog reading the menu outside a pub in Salthill. Smart dogs here in Ireland.

I'll do photos of Aran Island and Galway tomorrow. Hopefully, this broadband connection is fixed for the morning. Then, we are off to Dromoland Castle for Monday night. It's been a whirlwind tour.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Westport in County Mayo

Here's the upstairs bar at our hotel in Westport. The service is very formal and polite. The waiters wear tuxes. We felt like travelers from another era - the 1940's maybe, except the music was all 1960's American - Dione Warwick, Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas. We've heard more of that vintage music since being in Ireland than anything else. At least we had classical in the lovely restauarant at breakfast. The pananoramic views from that room include Croagh Patrick, a famous pilgrimage climb for thousands every year, and the sea to the east. Beautiful at sunset.

Westport is a graceful town built in Georgian style with a river through the middle and close to the sea. The harbour in Westport is adjacent with lots of fishing boats and seafood restaurants. We ate at The Helm last night, one of the more popular ones. It was packed on a Friday night, mostly with locals. Our only disappointment was Matt Malloy's pub was also packed, and we couldn't (didn't want to) get in to listen to traditional music. The owner is a former Chieftan. I envisioned an intimate pub with tables, but this was just a little too intimate with lots of boisterous young beer drinking lads, few women, and jammed elbow to elbow in three very cramped dark rooms. We were early, but walked in and walked out. We came back to our hotel and heard a very good guitar player and singer who sang mostly Irish ballads. Much more comfortable.

Our hotel, the Knockranny, is fabulous and built in Victorian style. The indoor infinity pool is heated and so relaxing I had it all to my self yesterday afternoon. There is also a spa with all sort of treatments, steam and sauna rooms as well. The Fougere restaurant has a very famous chef, but we opted for the local seafood.

Today we drive through the countryside of Connemara and down to Galway where we'll stay two nights.