Rob's Ireland Trip Report 2000

We left San Jose Aug 19th, a Saturday. We left for LA about 2pm  then spent a few hours waiting for our  Aer Lingus  flight to Shannon Ireland. At the airport we had to take a shuttle bus to the international terminal. What a mess! The bus was standing room only with a bunch of people that mostly barely spoke English. We were pretty stressed watching all the shenanigans (an Irish term).
   Finally we got on the plane and took off about 7pm for a nine hour flight. Not too bad. Unlike Virgin we didn't have our own little tv screens. But we had two seats on the side so we didn't have to bother with anybody else. Deb watched all three movies. I watched one about George W's old secret society - "Skulls", short for "Skull and Bones". Neither one  of us slept . We got to Shannon Airport which is on the west side of Ireland. I understand there is a law that all international Irish flights have to go through Shannon. Anyway, we had a 2-3 hour layover there. The airport is really pretty small. Only two airlines use it - both Irish, obviously. It looked like a highway in the middle of a cow pasture with a modest terminal. We climbed aboard a turbo prop  plane and hopped over to Dublin. We got the rental car which was a small Nissan of some sort. Sort of a world car that probably isn't sold here because it's so small. Surprisingly I caught on to driving on the left side almost immediately. I still had to repeat the mantra - "short left, wide right".
   We zipped into Dublin. Thank goodness it was Sunday afternoon so there wasn't much traffic. It looks like the UK only a bit older and poorer. We went by the famous post office and the statues of the heroes of the 1916 Easter uprising. I've got to see the movie "Michael Collins" again.
   After driving around we finally found the street Fish Amble Way where our hotel was. It was really short, small and curvy. We actually pulled over and looked at the map to see where the hotel was then continued on down another 100 yards or so and decided to turn around. Boom there was  our hotel! We had stopped right across the street from it but didn't see it because it was set back a bit. Later we found that Fish Amble Way is perhaps the oldest street in Dublin and had been there before the Vikings arrived. We checked in and had, at the advice of the clerk, to make an illegal turn across traffic to get to the parking garage.
   The room was small but nice, with no view. We nipped down to the pub for our first real Irish  Guinness. We talked with the  bar girl. She sent us to the next hotel  up for dinner. We had a nice little meal in a dining area of the pub that was really jumping. It was packed People were singing along with an Irish band. More like some guys with guitars, an Irish drum and a couple other Irish instruments sitting among the crowd. The Irish love American country music. One of the most beloved songs is "Country Roads". Go figure. So we had another Guinness and sang along for a while. Then to bed after being up well over 24 hours.

Monday we went to breakfast in the hotel pub/restaurant. I watched a scene on the street unfold where some police were putting boots on car tires and the owners were arguing with them. Then we got ready and hiked out looking for an ATM. We hiked nearly a mile to find one on the main drag. It was really interesting. The main tourist area is pretty small and can be walked with some difficulty. Just on this little hike we saw Dublin Castle, Trinity College and could have gone into the Temple Bar area. But we got our money, decided to check out of the hotel and put  our bags in the car, so we wouldn't have to deal with that later. We then walked to Christ Church Cathedral, which was just a few hundred feet from our hotel. It wasn't open yet so we walked down to St. Patrick's cathedral which was a couple blocks down. The tour busses were unloading. There must have been 20 busses parked there. We went in and had a good look around. The grounds were beautiful. We then went back to Christ Church Cathedral and toured that. It had an outstanding crypt. I really like the ones with elaborate statues including grieving wives and children and maybe a saint or two thrown in.
   An interesting thing is that neither of these church's are Catholic. I think they are Church of Ireland which is like the Church of England - Episcopalian I guess.
   We then hiked down to Trinity College to see the book of Kells. There were bus loads of people there waiting to get in. We skipped through, paid, and entered a rather nice presentation/museum area which had a detailed presentation of the history and videos on the creation of the books. Apparently, while there is one main book, there are actually four books that are considered as part of the Book of Kells. It was packed. The books were in a table like presentation with glass over them. After a while I went back and found most of the people gone so I was able to get a good look. Quite impressive especially considering the primitive materials - sheep skins, berry juice, crushed stones, etc. We also went through the library which contains tens of thousands of old books. They wouldn't let me check anything out. The oldest harp in Ireland is also here.
   We then nipped into a small pub for lunch. Very nice, we sat in a window. I had my first Irish sandwich. It was just plain white bread with a thin slab of ham and they added a thin slab of cheese at my request. The price was right, about 1.50 pounds. Deb had a pasta dish, which we shared. And of course a Guinness.
   We decided to hike up to Dublin Castle. We took the tour. Very nice but more British then anything. We did see where president Clinton met when participating in the Northern Ireland peace talks. Not Bad. There were some excavations showing the early city walls.
   At the end it was pouring down rain. We looked through the gift shop and waited a bit, then decided it wasn't too far to the parking garage to get the umbrellas. We got a little damp.
   We then decided to hike to the Guinness brewery. What the heck, it's only an inch or so on the map. After hiking for blocks and blocks and getting our feet and pants soaked we found it. It wasn't really a brewery tour. It was more like a museum tour with a video. But best of all there was a free pint of fresh Guinness at the end in a nice pub downstairs. We bought a few things at the gift shop then hiked back to our car. Oh, I took a picture of Deb with a friendly guy with a horse and brewery wagon outside the brewery. He actually had driven the horse carts for Guinness.
   We decided to move to our B&B. We had a very tough time with the one way streets and streets that change names so we ended up in the middle of nowhere. Deb had to pee desperately so we stopped at a teeny Pakistani grocery store where she begged her way in. I called the B&B and was told that they might not have a room for us because we didn't show up the night before and didn't call. Damn! Apparently some mix-up but they said they would help us. We finally fought our way back through rush hour traffic, around and around the one way crooked streets. At last we found it! They were able to put us up at least one night.
   The girl at the desk said she would take us to our room. She grabbed the smaller suitcase and bolted up the stairs. So I grabbed the other suitcase which has a collection of anchors and anvils in it and dashed after her. About flight five I was fading fast. We finally made it. The room was small but nice. It took 2-3 days for my legs and knees to recover from that effort.
   We were close to Steven's Green. There is quite a lot going on in this area. It didn't seem very touristy even though there were several hotels near by. We hiked out and found a place for some pub grub. We hiked around and found a pub with some people in it. We had a couple Guinness' at the and talked to some American's. I didn't have quite enough cash so the bar girl paid for part of our last beer. The Irish are a friendly people.  Back at the B&B we were told we could stay in our room for another night. We went to bed.

The next day, Tuesday, we hiked up to the Irish National Museum. We spent quite a bit of time there looking at everything. The museum itself is pretty neat. It was built in the 1870's so it's an old victorian museum - lots of natural light. I don't think I've ever seen so much gold. There were people and things found in the peat, including a very long dugout canoe. Strangely enough there was a very interesting and well done Egyptian museum here. It looked like the museum was preparing a new bunch of displays.
   We then hiked up the street to theNational Library. Actually part of the same victorian complex. We wanted to see some of the genealogy stuff. However, the guy there was busy with some other people so we decided to leave. We stopped by a heraldic museum which was small and a bit strange.
   After asking a couple of guys about going to the Kilmainham jail we decided to take a taxi. This jail was used for the political prisoners during the Irish uprising. They actually brought the wounded Michael Collins here in an ambulance to have him put to death by a firing squad sitting in a chair (he was in the chair, not the firing squad). The tour guide was pretty passionate about the history here.
  After the tour we nipped into a local pub called the Sportsman. It was about 5pm so it was jumping. We talked to an old guy named Johnny. What a hoot. He was a film buff and had seen everything. They arranged a cab for us to return to our B&B. It was Mr. Toad's wild ride through narrow Dublin side streets at rush hour. But we made it.
   Later that night we went to G.B.Shaw's for a nice dinner. We went back to previous pub to repay the bar girl but she wouldn't take my money. There was some pretty good Irish music being played here. Later we stopped in to the Bleeding Horse for a couple Guinness'.

This is Wednesday so off to Waterford. It's about 90 miles so the B&B owner said it would take 3 1/2 hours (?). We took sort of the scenic route, N11 to Enniscorthy then the N79 to New Ross and the N30 to Waterford. On the map these look like equivalent roads. Nope. Some of them were really narrow and bumpy. By now I'm an old pro at getting off the road so people that want to go more then 65 can get by. Whew!
   Sure enough, three and a half hours later we pulled into Waterford. It's pretty small considering it's big name. It's on an estuary and looks like it was a shipping town. Now they have ripped down most of the old piers and warehouses and are replacing them with a waterside park. The traffic was unbelievable, I guess they were replacing water mains so many streets were blocked off. We found our B&B with no problem.
   We checked in and took off for the Waterford Crystal factory. I had fun joking with the bus driver. The tour was very interesting. It was an actual factory tour. They were blowing and shaping glass right in front of us. We went through the inspection area and saw the glass cutting right up close. Deb spent too much money in the display room. Neat.
   That night we decided to go to the restaurant that was recommended by our previous B&B guy, The Wine Cellar. We were a bit early so we stopped by and made reservations and hit it off with the gal managing the place. She was bright and witty. We exchanged clever repartee for a few minutes then we went to a pub she recommended. Not too good. So we found our own pub. The place said a pub for Americans. I went in an asked if they would serve Americans, after some joking around we settled in for some good conversation with the locals. Then off to dinner.
   Dinner was a hoot. The manager took good care of us and we had a wonderful meal.
   We went to a pub that was supposed to have real Irish music but just had a guy with a guitar playing  songs that were more rock then Irish.
   On the way back we stopped by the Wine Cellar again so Deb could pee. She went down to the cellar/shop and bought a bottle of wine.
   We went home and went to bed.

Next morning, Thursday. I had the usual big greasy breakfast with those delightful (ugh) sausages and eggs and then off to Dingle. Dingle is about 150 miles away and it was predicted that it would take about five hours to get there. We had a pleasant drive including getting all scrambled up trying to get around Cork. We finally arrived at the little cut off to the Dingle Peninsula. We stopped and got 20 pound of gas (petrol) and had lunch in another quaint pub. We met a lady there who had seen more of America the we had, she had just been to a funeral.
   Off to Dingle. The roads here were even narrower. I practically stopped for on coming cars. The sights here are breathtaking. There are actually  beaches here that rival California beaches. The views are breathtaking. We finally reached Dingle town and found our B&B with no problem.
   The B&B was spectacular. High on a hill overlooking the harbor, inlet and town. The room was large and beautiful with an unmatched view. The breakfasts here were large and elegant. Beautiful.
   We hiked down and  around the town. The weather was beautiful. We found a pub that had a little  beer garden out back. So we stopped in for a pint and a break.
   Deb insisted on eating dinner at purportedly the best restaurant in town - Doyle's. Excellent as usual. We then found a pub with "real" Irish music. Actually it was more a core group of about 3-4 guys and a bunch of others that dropped in to play. There were, at least, three violins, two guitars, two of those squeeze bagpipes and a drum or two. They were loud and enthusiastic if nothing else. Then to bed.

Friday is our big Dingle peninsula tour day. The weather isn't too good today - rainy and windy. We used Rick Steve's suggestions for doing the tour. We had seen the movie "Far and Away" so we wanted to see Lord Ventry's Manor. I asked an old guy along the road if he knew where it was. He said he had lived there his whole life and never heard of it but he knew where his grave was. Well, we found the manor about a quarter mile away from where the guy was sitting. It's now a private girls school. Whatever.
   We did the drive and it was as spectacular as advertised despite the weather. We looked at Dunbeg fort - which is a pile of stones and ditches, beehive homes - which were piles of stones, Slea Head and crucifix, the Great Blasket Centre - we didn't take the tour, Dunmore Head - the western most land of Europe (spectacular). We stopped in Ballyferriter for lunch and a pint. We then saw the Riasc Monastery - piles of rocks, then to Gallarus Oratory - a famous Irish site. Then back to Dingle. My description leaves a lot out. This tour may have been the best thing we did in all of Ireland.
   We rested up, then went into town. We bought some stamps and sort of scouted the place out  a bit more. We nipped into the internet cafe just as a cloud burst occurred. Deb zipped next door and bought a small umbrella. We also made a dinner reservation at the Smoke House. We stopped into our local pub again, the one with the beer garden and where we heard the music last night. We talked to a guy that works for Rick Steves, how 'bout that. Then the power went out. No problem as long as there is pressure in the Guinness kegs.
   We went over to the Smoke House for dinner. Of course the power was still out but they could still cook. We ate by candle light. A very nice meal, as I recall. We usually had wine with the dinners and usually it was from South America. The wines were very reasonably priced and surprisingly delicious. The power came back on.
   Deb hiked up to the room to go to the bathroom and who knows what while I stood around on the street corner watching the passing scene. John came by said he was going to a different pub for music tonight. Finally Deb showed up and we went to our pub to listen to music. It was only two guys. The guy playing the bag pipes and flutes looked like Chris Christopherson and was really really really good. Wow that was fantastic. While sitting there we struck up a conversation with the couple nearest us. He plays violin for the National symphony. Another great evening!

Saturday. The weather is still pretty poor - windy and wet. We drove over the Connor pass. I don't have many pictures because of the weather but it was spectacular. If you ever get near here you must do this drive! Unbelievable! We got to the ferry at Tarbert, then over to Killimer and on to the Burren. Beautiful scenes, small and winding roads. We saw many stone houses and fences. Near the Burren we saw an old mansion/castle ready to fall over made totally of stone. The Burren is a strange geologic formation. It's a limestone exposure that goes for miles. We looked at a prehistoric structure out there and many modern ones.
   We took the time to stop at Dysert O'Dey which is an old castle/tower/fort. There was an old church ruin near by that was fun to see. We spent too much time here but it was fascinating. We had to cross a cow pasture to get to it - real cows and cow pies.
   We then went to our B&B near Bunratty Castle. We were too late and too tired to go to a dinner where the woman has to beg for the salt and everybody eats with their hands. We went to Dirty Nell's for dinner. It was packed with drunks, Irish on holiday and partyers. It looked like we were not going to be able to eat. I went upstairs and looked around and found a nice, perhaps too nice, restaurant. Amazingly enough they squeezed us in for another nice dinner. We both had duck. The ducks are huge. Deb actually had one with four legs!
   Unfortunately we saw nothing of Bunratty Castle. It looked pretty neat. I understand it's very touristy, not that that's always bad. Anyway, we went to bed.

Sunday morning we drove over to Shannon Airport, looked at the duty free shop and hung around waiting for our airplane. We hopped over to Dublin, disembarked for a while and got back on for the eleven hour flight to LA. Deb shopped and watched movies, I read Clive Cusslers "Blue Gold". It was a long flight and, of course, we didn't sleep a wink.
   In LA, after customs, we had about 30 minutes to catch our next flight! Arggh. We sprinted with all our bags to another terminal. Luckily the line was nearly nonexistent so we checked in and got on the plane for home. Amber and Dillon were there to meet us. It was Sunday evening and we both had to go to work the next day.

Comments and Observations -

Ireland is not as historical and rich as the UK. It does have the beautiful scenery and friendly people.

The exchange rate was about $1.20 per punt (pound) and dropping fast.

The roads are pretty tricky but most people seem to know how to cope.

The beer in Ireland is not served "warm". Even at the Guinness brewery it was served quite cold.

In the UK every bar and region seemed to have local beers. In Ireland it was a basic four or five beers - Guinness, Harp, Budwieser, MacKinnons (or something) and maybe a cider. No hand drawn beers, it's all pressurized.