Dream trip Day 117 Bus to Limerick, Irish dancers, submerged boat

Another early morning in order to hit the bus station before noon. 1 last Irish fry up courtesy of Pat and Mary.

We chatted with them a bit, thanking them for the great walking tip. They are quite lucky that walk is a daily option.

A short walk down the road and we were at the mall, bus depot. It makes total sense though, with shopping near by, it gives you something to do while you wait for your bus or pop into a shop if you forgot to pack something.

Standing outside with several people, all who smoked, it suddenly began to rain steady.

Everybody in Ireland had an umbrella within reach and this guy had a large golf style umbrellas to aid with retrieving people’s luggage.

We lined up under an awning and the driver sold us tickets. There weren’t many people going to Limerick today so we had nice window seats.

It doesn’t rain hard, but it rains steady for hours, never letting up.

Luckily, it had stopped raining about halfway through our trip. Ireland sure was pretty and green due to all this rain!

We were dropped off at a small bus, train depot in Limerick and walked to our hotel for the next few days across town.

We began in a busy area full of shops, restaurants and other activities, but soon we were in what I felt was not a great area at night.

I couldn’t place why I felt dirty, target like, but I did walking through a number of small multilevel brick houses.

Luckily our stroll through this part of town was over quickly as we crossed a lovely bridge to get to our hotel.

Rounding a corner we spied a boat in the water but it wasn’t sea worthy any longer.

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The boat’s placement blocking a narrow channel seemed deliberate. We noted its progress each day as it would rain, raising the water level.

We got a heap of info upon check in, from a dinner spot to purchasing a bus tour to the Cliffs of Mohr in the morning.

The Locke Bar where we were recommended was a bit crowded, but we were able to snag a table with a view of the dance floor.

As soon as you enter, to the left was a lightly colored wooden floor where a small band was set up playing Irish tunes.

The band was soon joined by Irish dancers, a couple of lads and lassies, terms they most definitely use here.

Irish dance is one of the most awkward dance style to behold in person. No arm movements it’s all feet tapping, crossing, hopping, a very airborne dance.

As I learned, Irish dancing isn’t ‘river dance,’ that is the name of 1 guy’s dance show but he is for sure the man who introduced this unique dance style to the world.

We got beers and watched the show, each song had a different dance including solo jigs or couples. A fury of feets flying!

Our night was settled, let’s take it easy. We had great seats, they had beer, food and live music so we stayed.

Fish and chips this time, I presume due to the proximity of the River Shannon I felt it to be fresh.

We raised our pints and said cheers, to which a couple next to us joined in, ‘Sláinte!’ they responded, to your health. 

I soon related my tales from my friend from Limerick to my mom. I couldn’t believe I actually made it to his hometown.

We headed back to our hotel after dinner and a couple of pints. It was spritzing rain which was annoying but not enough to soak us.

I had spied a pub across the river from our hotel so I split off from my mom.

Wow I’d stumbled into an extremely local pub. Usually at least 1-2 people will nod or say hello, but not here.

I even had to change places at the pub to get served. Maybe it was my long-ish beard?

It seemed there was a wedding reception or some other formal style event so perhaps it was just a family affair evening.

I had a couple pints, watching the footy highlights on the telly. At least it didn’t rain on my walk home.

Tomorrow the Cliffs of Mohr!

Beer: Stag Bán

Song:  Black 47  Fire of Freedom

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Dream trip Day 115 Pat & Mary, Killarney Brewery, pub singing

This was my first bed and breakfast experience on my trip. Basically it is like staying in a hostel except you get your own room. Plus a nice breakfast.

Only 2 options for breakfast here, full Irish fry up or porridge. One of our hosts took orders, lamenting that he’d have to eat porridge again as no one was ordering it!

He was super nice and named Pat stereotypically. A discussion arose between my mom and he as to his egg poaching technique, 2 master chefs discuss strategy!

Haha the trick was he had small plastic bowls that floated in the boiling water, holding the egg’s shape. This made for perfectly shaped poached eggs.

I really cannot express how friendly and genuine the couple that ran this bnb were to us. What was very cool is how he’d volunteer information like ‘stay in today for a few more hours, it will rain.’ or ‘now’s the time to head out if you are going out, should be a dry day.’

As far as I knew we didn’t have much scheduled today. I knew my mom wanted to go shopping for a certain material, wool of some sort.

We had made it about halfway into town when suddenly it poured rain, just sheets coming down. We had to make a break for the awnings, following them for a few blocks until I spied a coffee shop.

You could tell the residents as they always carried a nice umbrella ‘ella ‘ella. If you are able to find a small umbrella, I recommend keeping one in your travel bag. You never know when it will rain but you will love having an umbrella if it does.

Can’t do much in this rain so dry out, have a coffee, enjoy the day, which is what we did.

This was for sure a ladies haunt, only saw women coming in for a cup or pastries to go.

Soon the rain ended as did our coffee’s. Time to go shopping.

There was a large corner store that we popped into. My mom was looking for crystal and wool garment as souvenir’s.

It was Wexford crystal, named after a small town in the southeast part of the island. I cannot recall the type of wool or garment my mom was also hunting for, I was just along for the ride.

Shops typically carried a scroll or other type of historical looking document that detailed the history of Irish family names, suitable for framing.

My mom lingered in the store for a while, piling up items in order to meet the frequently posted sign for ‘free shipping if you bought over 50€.’ She eventually realized the folly of doing this and put things back.

Traveling makes trinket purchases more enticing as you can tell people were you got a shamrock bell or beer glass. I also nearly bought bottle opener, even though I had several.

A bit more rain but certainly walkable, we headed towards my pick for the day, Killarney Brewery. We would just make it in time for the daily tour.

We stepped into a new, shiny brewery. I had a good feeling about this place.

A cheery guy greeted us soon and arranged us in a group of 6 I think it was, less than 10 for sure.

“How’s about a taste, yeah? Best way to start the day!” he exclaimed. He poured us all a light lager to begin with, darker beers to follow.

We introduced ourselves around, a couple from the US and Canada, eh!

Our guide lead us upstairs to a small conference room with a screen on 1 wall, chairs set in front of a projector. An image was already on the screen. No muck ups today.

The brewery had made a hilarious video about the brewery and its top-secret reciepes handed down by their ancestors. I cracked up several times.

It was a pro level quality film with special effects and many location and dress changes.

Once we had learned about their history it was time to taste it!

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We sampled several beers from light lager to a dark stout like Guinness. Suddenly our host grew quiet and whispered to us, ‘do yew want ta taste something special?’ of course we do!

They had made a winter ale that wasn’t available yet but the brewers drank it. It was nice, a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Why I was even able to make a contribution to the beer discussion explaining how hops are introduced to beer at 3 stages during the brewing process.

I volunteered at a brewery and picked up a lot of basics about brewing tho I doubted I could successfully brew anything tasty. Brewing beer is hard and involves a lot, lot of cleaning. Sanitize sanitize sanitize.

It was time for the next tour so we had to leave, no more beer.

We circled back into town for more shopping. My mom was looking for something golf related for my dad, a club top if I recall correctly.

 

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The town still has a horse and carriage waiting area just like taxis. There were probably 5 of them in this area willing to take you to a castle or through the forest close by.

We were very close to the Killarney National Park and would have walked it had the weather held up. As things were, it was on and off rain all day.

Not sure what to do, I suggested we pop in for a pint at a tiny pub. Can’t walk in the rain, not yet supper time.

There was a grandma behind the bar and a guy seated nursing a pint. Another guy was talking all sorts of nonsense but luckily his pint was nearly finished.

“Off with ye, Ned! Shoo shoo” she exclaimed while hand motions like she was fanning flames. This guy was already in the bag, not yet 5pm.

We chatted with the two there for a while, she was 3rd generation pub owner and soon held up a photo of her grandson, “Here’s 5th generation! My son will takeover, if ever I tire of pouring pints. Ha an easy task, he may never takeover!’

The man at the pub had quite a story we put together. He was from Missouri but had lived in Killarney for over 20 years. Came here for a college class and never left.

We didn’t get the whole story as he didn’t seem to have a job, though he told us each year he had to go before a local government official who would determine if he could stay or leave. Usually this was accomplished via some sort of requirement.

Up until recently, he said they just asked him for money, a reasonable sum he assured us. Now he was not only required to pay a bit, but he also had to buy into Ireland’s health insurance scheme.

The word scheme has negative connotations to me as I associate it with how can 1 person put something over on a group of people. Does seem fitting that over here it is used to describe government initiatives.

They do have island wide heath care though it seems in rural cities, they have a general doctor and work out payments in cash trade, no need for paperwork.

If only those in power in the US would realize it is better to spend tax money on people vs a new ship or plane.

We were soon joined by some people from Florida, a couple and their friend. They immediately bought everyone another round.

My mom was drinking a special Irish coffee the grandma made with heavy cream. All the best receipts use rich ingredients because they were making treats, things you’d have 1 or 2x per month. Now we have them weekly or daily.

Having never been to Florida, I learned the west coast was best, stay out of the north and Miami is a must visit city.

We were watching some sort of horse chariot race on the telly. The camera panned to the crowd.  Suddenly, ‘Oh who is that he’s with now? Oh my I’ve got to ring Sharon! Oh dear hahaha,’ exclaimed the grandma. Straight out of a show you’d see on the BBC.

Sure enough the phone was engaged and calls were made. It was a hoot watching the gossip mill in action.

Perfect people to run into on a dreary day.

 

Having only eaten breakfast, we determined we were hungry. Plus the rain and all, what else to do?

Due to the early hour, we were seated in a very classy joint. I got a steak, Irish beef indeed! Fancy spot with napkin rings, ice in the urinals that sort of affair.

We got out of there just as the dinner rush began.

Just down the street was a corner pub and I heard music coming. Let’s investigate!

Packed pub, all seats taken, a guy with a guitar to the left just as you walked in. He was aided by an Ipad for lyrics. You could yell out a song and if he knew it, he would play it.

Pretty much everyone sang along. John Denver, traditional Irish tunes. Bob Dylan. It was wonderful singing along, connecting with strangers through music.

Truly a special memory singing with my mom in this Irish pub. How far we’d both come in our lives to be there!

The night became funny as the drunk that we’d seen earlier stumbled in with a pint. He had the most amazing loud laugh, you could hear him over the music even.

Arrrrrrrhahahhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr

He was a riot! Apparently charming too as he entertained a couple of college age girls, mid-20s, he was well into his 70s, grey hair and mustache, permanently disheveled, black suit.

Finally persuading one of the girls to dance, he made his move shortly after a spin, in for the kiss. Success haha! The town drunk was having one for the books tonight!

The ringing in our ears carried us back to the bnb. Cool times in Killarney!

 

 

Beer: Killarney Golden Spear

Song:  John Denver   Take Me Home, Country Roads

Dream trip Day 114 Ring of Kerry tour, Dingle Bay, Killarney B and B

Another early bus call so a quick breakfast of porridge and coffee. I’d say porridge is more creamy and run-y vs the oatmeal I had back home. Filling for sure.

More people on the bus today. This was the tour of the big spots of the western island they named route The Ring of Kerry.

We’d head north to Killarney, on to Waterville, and Sneem each much more picturesque than the next. All were perfect film sets, some had already been used.

Our driver was a pleasant chap who also filled us in on the Irish language and people.

The 1st bit of knowledge, ‘so what’s the deal with all these towns called Kill- something? Well, in Irish, kill= church that way you’d know who has one if you’re traveling. You’re welcome!’ the driver explained.

He often took to explaining things and asking for a round of applause or for us to cheer his name. Very entertaining host as well as good driver. These were some narrow roads not meant for huge buses.

First stop in Killarney and it is truly one of the most pleasant places I’ve ever been. I was expecting to see a milkman walking around, waving or maybe a mail guy getting a cat out of a tree. It was a Norman Rockwell painting in real life.

We just walked up and down the main street during our hour layover. I think we were to pick up another group was the reason for this stop. It was now a full bus.

Our next stop was just outside Killarney and it was a strange place to stop. Just a stream and a guy with a donkey you could take you picture sitting on. We began to realize that these tours buses will stop anywhere so long as you paid.

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There were an endless stream of handcrafted goods, foods and other trinkets available on our frequent stops.

We passed through tiny towns and our driver told us that they still farm here like they’ve done for centuries. Sheep mostly for its prized wool.

Each farmer had a unique color mark that was spayed on the backs of the sheep. All the sheep were let go to graze up the side of a mountain and once it came time to shear the sheep, they just had separate based on this mark.

The rams were just left on the mountain, free to roam and have their way with as many sheep as they could during season. You cannot contain a ram as easily as a sheep.

Before too long we had finally hit the coast, though I doubt they had many surfers, swimmers here.

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We backed into a spot on a narrow curve atop a hill, it was lunch time, though I wasn’t too hungry. The long line aided in my decision.

I’d often joked that there was a sammich in every pint of Guinness, so that is all I had. My mom ordered a barley soup, I believe.

We were served by a beautiful lass and actually got her talking about the area. She said most people here worked the summer tourist season months and survived the rest of the year off that money.

She says it gets very cool, rainy during the winter so no one really goes outside. Still seeing all the tour buses and traffic we were causing, it seemed like we were in someone’s living room with dirty shoes.

During the coastal part of the tour our guide brought up a move shot there: Ryan’s Daughter, a 1970 film starring Robert Mitchum and directed by English titan David Lean.

I had to laugh as our driver pronounced it fil-uhm, ‘Have you seen the fil-uhm Ryan’s Daughter…” haha.

Growing up, my dad quoted, ‘give me the fil-uhm!’ to me, from a Three Stooges episode, but I’d not encountered anyone who actually pronounced it this way in person until this moment.

You can still pick up souvenirs about the film along the Ring, it is quite popular here and brings in a lot of ladies who have seen it, wanting to reminiscent about it. I’d never heard of the film much less seen it but it is on my list.

My family has always been film watchers and it is nice to see where something was filmed. Sometimes we tried to guess where it was shot as the credits roll to see who knows their countryside the best.

Another film shot around here was the Star Wars, The Force Awakens. The final scene on the tiny island with stone stairs and dwelling was filmed on Skellig Island.

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This view was rare our driver told us as there is usually fog obscuring these islands. The small one on the right foreground is where Star Wars scene was filmed.

Our driver told us that centuries ago, monks built stone structures on the island so they could live simply and meditate. They worshiped the sun.

Catholic missionaries showed up and found the monks in their tiny stone dwellings.

They really loved the sun so they couldn’t convert to anything not sun related. No problem the missionaries told them, we will add the sun to our cross.

And that is how the Celtic cross was created. Well at least one story anyway.

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We hit the tiny town of Sneem, a town square really. It was sadly memorable due to an eccentric man who owned a friendly goat.

Goats have a distinct odor on them, in them, it is all-encompassing and will stay with you if you touch them. I’d say the smell extended a few feet in all directions from the goat and man.

Goat was pretty cool looking, long curled horns, a blank look on his ever chewing face.

The man looked like a guy who hangs out with a goat, long dishevled hair, long beard, grin on his face. He sat next to his goat, stroking its beard and petting it. He charged a bit for a photo, that was his racket.

Goats just seem dumb but they will sneak up on you, mess you up. Watch out for goats, why do you think they put bells on them?

Continuing our film centric part of the tour, we arrived to Waterville where Charlie Chaplin kept a house close to the sea. There is a statue of him dressed up as the Little Tramp with a clear view of the sea.

True story, while staying in Waterville he entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest and took 3rd! Haha the judges really got it from the press when it was revealed who didn’t win the contest.

My mom was quite taken with the thatched roof houses we passed by. Our driver informed us that the neighbors took turns helping each other thatch their houses as it had to be done yearly and completed in 1 day.

We had a very tense moment when a tour bus going the opposite direction approached. The drivers had a protocol as the ro ads were very narrow.

You could reach out and touch the other bus, maybe 2 feet between us, 1 slowly driving while the other bus waited. We waved, some took pictures of the other bus as it passed.

Buses aside, everyone here drives like they are late as well as having no concept of bodily injury to themselves or others. Cars flew by in each direction, passing the bus even with an oncoming traffic ahead.

For sure driving in rural Ireland is a test and not for everyone. We were pleased several times that we didn’t have to drive.

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The ground was very rocky here. Most of the land was squared off using rock walls. Our driver explained these were famine walls.

During the Irish Famine of 1847,  there was a disease on potatoes. Most people lived off a ration of potatos and grains, simple foods.

The English landowners still expected the crops grown on their land to be exported rather than used to feed the people harvesting these crops. It was also forbidden to shoot wild animals either as those also belonged to the landowners.

Stealing food was punished by pulling up rocks from the ground to build walls. This made the land farmable as well as giving the peasants something to do while they starved or as a form of punishment. Seemed any reason was suitable to work the rocks out of the land.

Resentment remains high amongst the Irish, that the English exploited their land, labor and food using the famine as a means to get native people off the land.

History is often grim and bleak, but it is needed to know what others have done, good and bad, so we can learn what to do and what not to do if faced with a similar situation.

You have to hope for peace, that everyone figures out a way to get along fairly. It seems that last fair bit has always been tricky.

Our bus continued on the winding road, rolling rocky hills and sea. At this point, no matter how gorgeous the view, we were a bit tired of getting on and off the bus for sometimes as few as 15 minutes.

We paused at Torq Waterfall, accessed via short walk through a rainforest.

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Always funny how doing nothing all day on a bus wears you out. I suppose it was an all day adventure beginning by 830am and it was now 6pm.

We were the only ones who got off in Killarney, our bus driver wishing us well. Paddywagon Tours does a fine job, entertaining drivers.

It was a short walk to our bed and breakfast, a couple blocks from the city centre. The main road had pubs, shops and restaurants we looked forward to exploring.

Our main priority now was to get rid of these backpacks and then figure out evening options.

Ah yes, rain! Of course, rain, rain happens a lot in Ireland. Tried waiting it out and realized that there were levels of rain and this level was ok for walking.

Eventually as it does, the rain won out so we popped into a pub. Thus began a run of Irish beef stew for dinner which made sense as it was coolish outside. Nice to warm yourself with a nice meal.

We finished the night after a couple pints, running home in the pouring rain, but it was foolish, we were soaked. Doesn’t drying out in bed makes for a good night’s rest, I should think so.

We’d checked off a big one off my mom’s to see list today. We had a couple days to explore the charming town of Killarney!

Beer: Kinsale Pale Ale

Song:  Hothouse Flowers   Don’t Go

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Dream trip Day 113 English market, rain, brewery, rain, fish n chips

It was the weekend so I knew that in most cities on the Island, there would be a market and it would be a nice place to eat and see.

‘Cross the River Lee over into the shopping district past the quays. Seemed a lot of places were called quays here so I looked it up.

quay= a concrete, stone, or metal platform lying alongside or projecting into water for loading and unloading ships.

Warf would the US word I presumed, maybe pier.

This market was great! On site butchers sharpening knives, flanked by beef and sausages on the wall behind them.

We walked around the whole market, from produce, handmade goods and butchers.

The tea room was upstairs and we had just made it in time for breakfast. Coffee for me, tea for my mom.

She worked at a tea room when I was in high school. It was an arts and crafty store, with cold sandwiches.

Full Irish coming my way as well as another discussion as to how one pronounces scone.

Our waiter had an opinion and recommended we use it through the island, ‘they (motioning with his head towards the east, ole England) say it scOHn.’

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I watched a lady sitting across from us having tea and biscuits for breakfast, a bit of jelly, you know. Here I was with basically a plate o’ Irish meats.

At every entrance there are large signs that read: no photos inside the market. A large group of tourists was taking pictures and videos inside. A butcher yelled at them to turn them off, no is understood in every language but especially if said when grasping long sharp knives.

I had to laugh as the sign was only in English and Irish but it clearly had a red circle with a line through an older camera image. Maybe they should use an image of a phone?

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We walked over another part of River Lee, as far as I could see, we were on the right path.

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We passed a small walled garden with some history signs. Seems the city of Cork used to be walled off and we were standing in the last standing section of that wall.

Being invaded, seized used to be a very real threat in this country and about every place I went had some sort of wall, moat or other type of defense.

Inspecting the wall, it was very sturdy, many hours had to have gone into it. Same mentality with houses, buildings. Build the things that matter to last, build them well.

The clouds opened up so we had to fast walk it to our destination, Rising Sons Brewery.

Very cool spot, serves pizza too. I don’t think there are tours of the facilities but the bartender or someone will explain beer and their process if you ask.

It kept right on raining, hard too so a couple pints, nice talk about life and where we were headed on the island. Time passes much faster in good company. It was nice to have someone to talk to, a new perspective.

Once the rain cleared we headed towards the river hoping to see something cool along the way. We passed the opera house and art museum. Think they had Beauty and the Beast running, or maybe Mama Mia.

I don’t go for opera but Europe seemed to be the best place to see one.

We eventually ran out of road along the river so I just walked towards the highest point I could see, a church steeple off in the distance.

There seemed to be more cemeteries on the south side of the rivers, we passed by a couple. People buried here for centuries no doubt. Old lands.

Houses seemed smaller but were a couple of stories tall. Like each floor could be a separate room you know? Really not small if you have a floor to your self so long as no one was going up or down the stairs.

The steeple I’d seen was a very small church when compared with most I’d seen. Likely the cathedral was just for this neighborhood back in the days.

It sprinkled rain on and off our walk as we found another river so we turned left. Cork is 2 islands or isthmus like Florida. Land surrounded on 3 sides by water. There are 2 River Lees and this day takes place walking on the land between the Lees.

As we were about to cross the street I witnessed a transaction rarely seen in the US: a guy was standing in the middle of the road, newsie hat on his head, with a newspaper in his right hand, a bag containing rolled up newspapers was slung low around his torso on his left side. A guy driving by in a small car paused, they exchanged coins, a rolled up paper was then handed over and the driver was off with a wave.

We paused for a few moments at the convergence of the rivers, which was where the port was, home to ships. Nothing actually going on, no crains loading or unloading, just a docked huge ship.

It was still threatening rain so we experienced the Cork mall. My mom was looking for a specific type of material or wool. We walked through a couple of stores but they didn’t have the right style.

Lots of shamrocks, driving caps and family crests on sale in most shops. They needed tourist euros here for sure.

Malls seem the same, though the teens usually minding the stores look perennially bored to the point of doing something, maybe even work.

We caught sunset from the bridge over the River Lee. Stunning view, wish I had a good camera and skill to document. I’d seen plenty of wonderful sunsets and I’ve got them saved in my head. Just need to concentrate and I’m there.

Everyday we passed by a small fish n chips joint, takeaway only, no seats inside. It was basically all fryer haha. Tonight was the night to get some fish.

Thing about the fish over here is you have several options, some I’d not heard of before.

We got a couple very heavy boxes of fish n chips and found an outside patio in front of a pub. I figured if they had a problem with us eating here they’d let us know.

It was very good fish, flaky too. I dipped mine into tartar sauce, I’m not sure what the standard sauce is over here aside from malt vinegar. That is always an option.

I’m not sure how anyone is able to eat all the chips, so many chips, likely a pound o spuds. Thick cut, steak fries is what they would be called in the States. Again, same language, yet different.

We were able to not only finish our meal undisturbed, I was able to procure a pint of Guinness to wash it down with too. Only 1 guy behind the bar, plenty busy inside.

Talking and watching the people pass by. There was some sort of theatre down the street so occasionally you’d see very well dressed people, suits and elegant ladies whose shoes made that authoritative sound on the pavement.

There was also a hostel nearby so you’d see a stag group all dressed up too but in fluorescent yellow/green full length tights. Head to toe covered, no eye holes even.

It is quite a site on the streets of Cork this night.

All good things end and this was our last night. Tomorrow it was on to Killarney!

Onwards!

Song:  the Cranberries   Linger

Beer: Mi Daza XXX the Pride of the South

Dream trip Day 112 Bus to Blarney Castle, Jameson Distillery, Cobh

I’ve never been a morning person, even growing up. Man high school started @745! I did it though, not sure how, that’s rather early.

Since our bus tour was literally a couple blocks away, we were safe getting breakfast by 8. I just got eggs this round. They arrived with a bread I’d only see in Ireland so I finally asked the waitress.

Soda bread! It was very dense bread made with baking soda vs yeast. Spread some butter  jam or marmlade, if yer fancy, on a slice and it’s pretty good.

It was quite cold walking to the bus depot. When we arrived, several men were gathered, steam billowing out of the cups of coffee. They all smoked cigs too and I watched as the smoke/steam rose and dissipate over the river.

There were maybe 15 of us on this bus, we were pretty close to the end of the tour season our driver told us in a very wonderfully thick Irish accent.

He told us history the entire trip to Blarney, offering insights into the area as well as translating some of the Irish signs along the way. He had a wonderful, calming voice.

O was not in this guy’s pronunciation, not as we know it in the US, it was more ahr, so Cahrk, was how he referred to Cork.

Only an hour drive to Blarney Castle. Our driver gave us about an hour and a half tour time, using the term ‘half one.’ Sure we are using English but very different perspectives on time and phrases.

We crossed the car park over to a stream, moat that was in front of the castle walkway.

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Calm waters turn into a little waterfall on the road to Blarney Castle.

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There were a couple of walking paths that we thought would be nice after seeing the castle, kissing the stone.

Now, I had grown up with my mom saying her grandma’s maiden name was Blarney but it had been changed when they arrived to America to Blainey.

In quite literally every place we went in Ireland, they had posters, books, crests on every Irish family. I always searched for Blarney.

Was this a sort of homecoming? Were we entitled to a small part of the castle? Nah.

I don’t have a very ethnic surname yet I’ve always wanted one or to know for sure where my family originated. As it was I was just a great American mutt, an unknown mix.

For a thing as big as a castle, this place felt small, narrow. In order to get up to the 2nd story, we waited while others ascended a very narrow set of stone stairs aided by a chain rail along one wall.

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The tour of the old castle left a lot to the imagination. No elegant paintings line the walls anymore, no torches lit to guide us, no animals roasting in the huge fireplace.

Just empty, drafty rooms, well-worn stones and stories of grand days gone by are all that remain. Oh and plenty of tourists, anxious to pucker up to the stone.

The tale of the stone is not well-known to me so I was happy to hear it in castle. We slowly snaked up stairs towards the stone.

It is an awkward affair, you have to lean backwards over a large void many feet from the ground, a guide holds your legs, another takes a picture. Takes less than 10 seconds and 2 guys do this for hours per day, hundreds of people.

Great views of the village of Blarney though.

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Once we descended the stairs, I saw how long the line to kiss the stone had become. It was already in half hour or longer wait time. Early riser was the right call.

Outside the castle was a lovely garden. On display were many poisonous plants, including canibus, somehow not stolen.

It is strange how all these naturally occurring plants that can easily kill are legal to buy and plant. Yet 1 is forbidden, how can you make nature illegal? Only if something that is man made competes with a plant, only then can one outlaw nature.

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Soon we were back on the bus heading to Cobh, a tiny port where the Titanic and other ships bound for the US left.

The name of this place matched perfectly with our driver’s pattern of speech. The city was named Cove, but there isn’t a v in Irish language, so bh makes sort of a v sound.

Our driver explained that many cities had been overtaken by the English, but were now going back to using the Irish city names. There are other cities who were never under the English and are proud to have always used their Irish names.

We had a couple of hours, warned to be back by ‘half 3,’ Oddly, we arrived in the midst of a triathlon. The main road was blocked off as was the walkway.

A crossing guard waved us over as it was a point that bikers shot by on the way to the final, running stage of the event.

Along the coast most everything was Titanic themed from restaurants, posters for sale, anything nautical was Titanic branded.

Up a hill was the town’s cathedral, a wonderful view of the bay. It was comically windy when we walked the courtyard. I felt like a mime walking against the wind. I nearly was blown over!

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The town was so quaint, lovely. Seemed everyone was out watching the athletes, lining along the metal barricades on the street.

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We passed a statue to a Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympic medalist from Cobh. A couple of rowers from another small village on the island had won silver in the just completed summer games.

Venturing into the visitors center, we followed a line of people for a bit before realizing it was a buffet line, haha. Herd mentality right there because I wasn’t particularly hungry but if presented food, you likely ate. We hopped out of line.

Lots of cool displays, artifacts and even paid tours for more Titanic lore were in the visitor’s center.

This port is also where the Irish, English criminals that were sentenced to live in Australia shipped out as well as the ships bound for Amerikay.

I too felt the lure of the sea here. Doesn’t it sound grand, hop a ship to a far distant land, warmer climates too. Sadly not many options on the island for a lot of people so they placed their bets on distant shores.

It’s one thing to send your kids off to college, now image shipping them out on a boat, alone, to start over somewhere else, likely  you’d never see them again. Wow.

Once back on the bus, to my surprise, our driver asked where everyone wanted to go next, we were due to go to another castle, but it was threatening rain.

Most wanted to got to Jameson, some felt they were done and wanted to head home.

“We’ll drop those off at Jameson, then I’ll run ye to Cahrk, then back to Jameson, that’s the plan.’ he decided.

It can rain at the drop of a hat in Ireland, bring a raincoat when you go.

Still raining as we pulled into Midelton, a tiny village that was home to Jameson Distillery.

We got out and raced down the road to the distillery, rain pelting us the whole route. Our tour was in about 45 minutes, so I figured we may as well have a leisurely beverage.

Tour includes 1 beverage, just a taste, not like some breweries that give out unlimited samples.

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Jameson and ginger ale or ginger beer is fantastic! Also lime and water is a good mixer.

In the large merchandise room, I saw one could buy a full personalized barrel as well as a machine that not only let you fill up a bottle but engraved it with your information, too. As you can image, both are expensive.

Our tour began and we got through a couple old barns and things before it poured rain, sheets of rain fell so we had to make a couple of dashes for shelter. On these occations we all gathered at the opening whilest our guild pointed to the outside attractions.

As a beer drinker, I was fascinated by the process of making liquor vs beer. They actually did make beer before it became whiskey.

Whiskey began as a strong 12% beer but then they heated it further, taking the evaporated alcohol out of the beer.

Made me wonder what Jameson beer tasted like, it may very well had been horrible and only good for distilling.

It took years to age whiskey in barrels, and what we drink is several different years blended together.  Barrels that are deemed worthy are set aside for advanced aging.

They even worked with a brewery trading beer barrels for whiskey barrels taking turns coxing flavors out of the barrel wood. They had a room just for experimenting with newer methods, grains, hops.

We finally arrived at the tasting room where we had fresh whiskey, 1-year-old and finished whiskeys. The fresh stuff is a bit harsh, like moonshine, it is clear colored too getting its brownish hue from the wood.

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This wheel used to turn the grain smasher for over a century. It still spins though no longer breaks the grains up.

 

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A worm tub turns vapor back to liquid. Worm refers to the coiled heating elements needed for this process.

Once the tour concluded, we had maybe 10 minutes before our bus was due. Slamming a beverage is not fun. Good call on pretour beverage.

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Again we had to make a run in the rain to the bus. What a day, we somehow got good weather when we needed it outside and it rained when we were indoors.

Our bus seemed to follow the rain back to Cork yet it cleared up once we saw the big ships at the docks at the entrance of the city.

We were both tired and a bit hungry. Rain was threatening again so we dipped inside a burger joint. It was a modern one, exposed pipes, elegant lighting, fries served in cones.

But they had beer and burgers, both much-needed. We talked about other options in the city as we had 1 more day before we left for Killarney.

I watched the pouring rain from the window and was thankful I was in a warm place, with good food and my mom was there too.

We were able to discuss many things since we had so much time together. I’d ask about her trips growing up as well as trips we took as a family.

She told me of the long car rides her family took. They left as soon as her dad was off work Thursday, returning in time for him to work Monday afternoon.

They drove 7 hrs one way, only stopping at a place just before the Oklahoma border for coffee. They did this trip often, at least 1x month.

I am still not sure how we were able to take a long trip to Yellow Stone when I was younger. Without the internet we were able to secure lodging in several places!

I kept asking, ‘Did you call them, write them? How did you get their contact info? Did we have to go to a library to get that info?’

Due to our early night, I only had 1 pint in the hotel bar before calling it a night.

We fell asleep, the rain softly tapping a soothing pattern on the windows lulling us to sleep.

 

Beer: Rebel Red

Song: Ash   Girl from Mars

Dream trip Day 111 Irish wedding party, bus to Cork, Irish BBQ

An early bedtime makes for an early rise. Time for breakfast.

Our room came with 1 meal at the pub. They didn’t have a very extensive menu so once again, Irish fry up it was. A sturdy way to start the day.

I think my mom was able to order scones here which precipitated a discussion on pronunciation. It seems quite regional as to whether one says scOHn or scOWN.

How ever you say it, with a smear of butter and some jelly, they were good eating!

A couple of the tables were full of people, a wedding was happening soon. Of course they were already drinking.

The wedding may have been rescheduled from the day before due to the rain.

We made a bit of small talk with some of the party. Soon it was photo time.

One of the ladies asked us to join their group for the photo. We were the only other ones in the pub so why not.

‘Sorry we are so loud, we’ve ‘ad a bit of drink.’ she explained. They were a nice group and we wished them a good day and happy wedding.

According to Eriann, they had a 2 buses daily from Kilkenny to Cork, about a 3 hour trip.

The only problem for us was they don’t put up a bus stop sign indicating the area the bus will arrive, the arrow on my map was off the main road near a mall.

It was quite maddening situation, the bus would block a lane of traffic if it were to stop where indicated, I guess that is how they do things here.

We hung around the general areas for a while hoping to see a bus. We saw a couple of buses pass by,  none stopping.

Finally a bus did stop right where the map said it would, traffic, what little there was, merely went around the bus.

Another difference over here was the fact that the driver could sell you tickets, cash or card with cash being king for most of the Irish.

We settled in and once we were out-of-town, it began to rain. Perfect timing, we had thought to hang around Kilkenny, see the castle but that wouldn’t have been possible in the rain.

Buses overseas do have free but extremely spotty WiFi so I was able to write a bit and watch a TV show. It seems pretty easy to me to figure out how to get internet island wide.

At least Europe, UK had figured out that using 1 cell technology made things a lot easier for customers and presumable cell companies since they could share towers and building expenses.

The rain had subsided upon arriving to Cork. Our route was alongside a river with huge freight ships waiting their cargo.

Our research indicated there was a tour bus that would show us some sites around Cork as well as a stop in Killarney.

On our way to our hotel, we stopped by the tour bus company to confirm several things about our trip, mainly if we could just leave a bus in a city that wasn’t the end point.

My mom really wanted to go on the Ring of Kerry tour along the western coast. The best way or rather the way to do the tour in 1 day is to start in Killarney.

Also on her list, Blarney Castle, just outside of town. On my list was the real Jameson Distillery, also outside of Cork.

The guy at the tour bus office was very nice and answered all our questions and concerns. He agreed with our assessment that staying in Killarney was best option.

We’d be seeing him in a few hours as with any bus tour, early morning is the time they depart to maximize the sunlight.

Our hotel was very nice, it even had a waterfall near the outside patio. Inside it had a small elevator that I had to take my backpack off to fit inside with my mom.

Still early, we took a walk back to the River Lee, crossing over to the other side.

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We just walked down the street until it ended in a line of shops, currently closing for the day. Nothing opened on this side of the river, it was back over to the north side of town.

Now we were walking down a narrow, one way street our hostel was on, a row of shops separated us from the river road. A surprising amount of traffic on this road too.

Tee buildings were very cool around here,  doors between businesses as people lived above the ground level shops. Some of the buildings had 4-5 stories of rooms above them. How cool to be able to walk out your front door to a coffee spot or food option steps away?

Feeling a bit hungry we stopped into the most unlikely place for a couple of Texans in Ireland, a BBQ joint. White Rabbit BBQ, no rabbit on the menu.

Happy to report it was good Q. Tasty sides too, they got cornbread game. There are literally as many different styles of this type of meat cooking as there are US states , so I feel it is hard to say which is truly the best kind.

Texas is mostly beef, sausage, not too sauce-y either. There are good things about both sauce and no sauce. Just roll with it, enjoy where you are and have a taste of how they eat there. Foodcation, haha.

What was interesting about this spot was it fast became more of a bar as the night wore on. Trays of food and beers passed by frequently. The sound of the room grew louder as the tables filled up.

Back to the hotel bar, I had a couple pints talking with my mom. We had an early bus call tomorrow, 8am which meant we had to get up early in order to get breakfast.

Tomorrow on to Blarney!

Beer:  Beamish

Song: Sinéad O’Conner + the Chieftains  The Foggy Dew

Dream trip Day 110 bus to Kilkenny, rain, Billy’s Byrne’s

We woke up and sat outside on the small outdoor patio of our apartment for a few moments, watching the workers driving to work, shopkeepers opening the metal grates over their windows.

Our plan was to walk east to the bus rail station, buy a ticket to Kilkenney. No reason to really go to Kilkinney other than I’d had a beer named after the city as well as it being on the road to Cork.

Walking a couple blocks yielded what we thought was just a bakery. There were shelves of baked goods in the entry room, visible from the road, but further back, it opened up into a serve yourself buffet.

Tray after tray of eggs (poached even!), sausages, basically a fry up deconstructed and you were left to assemble it yourself.

I finally saw porridge but I elected to skip the mushy bowl o’ oats and instead savor blood sausage.

My mom elected to get Irish breakfast tea, which I’d seen her drink many times. It made me smile that she was in Ireland drinking this tea with me.

Following the river, we arrived to the bus station. Again, no matter if the conductor points towards a track, gives you the departure time, I methodically confirmed this several times. Look at the ticket, terminal #, bus name…

Ireland is very green and rocky. It was gorgeous and surprisingly flat, not too many rolling hills or mountains.

It rained off and on during our trip, I sure hoped for a dry arrival.

We arrived to a small depot direct from a movie. It was a small, shed like structure,

I had the thought that since we were there to get our next day’s ticket to Cork, but I didn’t see a ticket agent, guess it was after hours or maybe they just relied more on internet sales these days.

It was lightly drizzling as we exited the depot, we hadn’t booked a room yet as we followed my travel style of just finding a place to stay upon arrival.

This was a horrible idea in hard rain, we ran down the main street of the city, stopping in a couple of places that advertised rooms, all full.

We arrived at what was an upscale hotel chain with a couple very pretty ladies behind the counter. They too were booked solid, yet one of them took up our cause.

‘Just let me ring a couple of places, luv, I’ll be back with ya,’ she said with a big smile.

Only 2 phone calls and we had a spot! As if it were a sign, the rain let up as soon as we exited the hotel, offering our sincere thanks as we left. She’d found one of the best places we’d stay on our tour of Ireland.

I’m pretty sure my mom took down her name to send a thank you to the corp office letting them know what a great worker they had at their Kilkenny location. If there is one thing I know, writing letters and thank you cards is what my mom does.

To my shock, it was a pub, Billy Byrnes, but they had ‘rooms in the back.’

The place had a very cool vibe to it, almost out of an old Western, though clearly we were in a small town in Ireland.

We were greeted by the absolutely most beautiful lady I’d seen. Long curly black hair was tied off via scruncy, the bit of hair past her neck poofed out a bit.

She was wearing yoga pants and without getting too creepy, she clearly was fit and had to have yoga’ed and any other activity to chisel her frame into near perfect form.

Of course this lady’s accent was thick and sexy, like buttery syrup. I did what I could to not stare as well as make some sort of joke.

If ever I encounter a pretty lady, the realist side of me says just make her laugh, don’t try to hit on her or anything, share a laugh, that’s always a win.

Happy to report I succeeded in making the lass laugh, mission accomplished.

After stowing our things and watching the still hard rain for a while, we had laid out a plan of action to Blarney, Cork and beyond.

Still early, we headed out looking for a dinner spot as well as to see this wonderful city.

If there is an Irish equivalent to Norman Rockwall, this would be one of the town’s he would likely have painted. It just felt like everything great about Ireland.

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We paused for several pictures once we arrived to a bridge over the River Nore.

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There was, of course, a castle, because that’s just a thing over here no matter the size of the town. Or should it be towne?

 

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We located an Italian restaurant a short walk from the bridge. It smelled great, like fresh-baked bread.

I hd forgotten how close we were to the sea, seafood pasta would have been great here.

Alas, I was still in land lock mode and opted for pasta with meatballs. My mom ordered a fish with pasta dish, the fish served on a wooden board.

She won tonight’s meal battle for best dish by far. Whenever I go out to eat, I strive to order the most appetizing meal at the table. It keeps things interesting.

We ended the evening at our pub’s hotel. It looks like we’d just missed a show, singer songwriter guy.

This place seemed perfect to see an ethereal lady singing. In fact, this place seemed like a destination for a lot of locals ready to have a pint, a laugh and a show.

It had been a wet but fun day. We were tired and needed to rest up.

Cork tomorrow!

 

Beer: Costellos The Red

Song:  Clannad   Theme from Harry’s Game