I’d go back in a heartbeat!
We booked a tour that included air fare from Baltimore to Shannon and back, one night in a hotel in Shannon, coupons for Bed & Breakfast Inns for six nights, and a rental car. As I recall, the entire trip – including round trip air fare from Atlanta to Baltimore and an overnight stay in Baltimore, cost us less than $2,500.
And this is one of the sites we saw on our first day in Ireland.
We took this trip along with six members of my extended family. My bride and I laid out what we considered reasonable plans before we ever left home. In fact, I’d already made reservations at six different B&Bs; we knew in advance where we’d finish each day. What we did in between was up to whatever whim caught our attention.
The other folks decided to be totally flexible. Thus, after the Irish Coffee reception, they sat around a table trying to decide what to do first. Lu and I listened for a bit, then got into our rental car and headed for the Cliffs of Moher.
It was already late in the afternoon when we decided to leave the tranquil beauty of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. As we approached the parking lot, we met the other members of our entourage. We didn’t chat long because the sun was setting and they had a long walk to get to the best vantage points. It was also getting quite cold and snow was beginning to fall.
Instead of heading directly back to the hotel, Lu and I decided to follow our noses and find a place to eat dinner. I believe we found ourselves in a fishing village named Ballyvaughan. We went into a pub and were immediately warmed by the peat and coal fire.
I don’t recall what I ordered, but Lu ordered bacon and cabbage. Well, let me tell you! That bacon was what we could call ham and there was plenty of it.
The next morning my bride and I headed for Killarney, but stopped in Limerick along the way. That’s where we discovered King John’s Castle. History tells us that King John never spent a night there – he died before he could get back to it. The medieval structure was extremely interesting and made more so by the Viking settlement that was discovered buried beneath the castle. Those ruins were discovered during a remodeling project.
Life is so unfair. My bride and I discovered nothing so interesting when we remodeled our kitchen.
The B&B we stayed at that night was very comfortable. We had our own sitting room complete with a peat fire. The structure gave us a magnificent view of the MacGillicuddy Reeks (a mountain range south of Killarney) and I found myself thinking of Lucille Ball.
The landlady asked if we’d care for porridge with our Irish breakfast (which was included each day). I made the mistake of saying I could do without the oatmeal. I was told in no uncertain terms that porridge and oatmeal were two very different beasts. So I agreed to have porridge with my breakfast. It sure tasted a lot like oatmeal.
Following a wonderful breakfast (that also included bacon, eggs, toast, blood pudding, and fruit) we were off for a tour of the Ring of Kerry. We’d been warned not to drive (although I was doing a pretty good job of staying on the other side of the road) and had made reservations for a bus tour.
That’s when we ran into the other members of our group. They had tried to take a boat ride to the Aran Islands but were told they needed to make reservations. They did for a day later and then headed for the Ring of Kerry.
There were a number of places we would have stopped had I been driving. Being at the mercy of the bus driver, we stopped where he was supposed to stop. Of course, even the professionals have to alter their routes from time to time.
The only reason the sheep are not in our lane is the driver got out and shooed them over.
Naturally our driver stopped in one little village where we were able to do some shopping. Lu bought a beautiful sweater that she wears all the time and I bought a CD and music book featuring the songs of Phil Coulter.
After our tour of the Ring of Kerry, our group parted company once more. Altough we’d planned on meeting at the Cronin Pub in the city of Cork, they never showed up. I believe they then headed back north for their Aran Island excursion while we headed east for a tour of the Waterford Crystal plant.
We ran into them again at Trinity College in Dublin where we’d all gone to see the Book of Kells and other points of interest. Naturally, we all took the tour of the Guinness brewery.
The following day my bride and I headed north to visit Newgrange, which can best be described as an underground Stonehenge. It’s one of those prehistoric structures that seems to be a tremendous effort to create a calendar.
Finally, we headed for Bunratty Castle.
While Lu tried to make friends with the locals, I headed for the roof to see what I could see.
Later, at the castle, Lu and I were treated to a medieval feast. The first course was turnip soup; we were handed a knife and a napkin. I doubt the people who originally lived in the castle were given napkins.
The soup was very thick and we were given chunks of bread to help us along the way. It was delicious soup and was followed by ribs and chicken and other delightful finger foods.
All the while we were entertained by our singing and dancing wait staff. It was an absolutely marvelous way to bring our first trip to Ireland to a close. The next morning we headed back to the Shannon airport and home.
I’d go back in a heartbeat!