Monday, September 19, 2011

Two weeks in Ireland with one more to go!

Well we've been in Ireland for two weeks and I am finally getting around to my first blog post. We have pretty much been on the go since we arrived. Each night I've been making quick notes and working on pictures or other trip related items but haven't had both the desire and the time at the exact same time to put together a post. I usually need a hour or two straight to write a post versus writing for 5 or 10 minutes at a time then piecing it all together. Who knows it may work better for me to do that instead the way I currently write posts.

Our actual first stop on this trip wasn't in Ireland. It was in Charlotte, North Carolina of all places. To get to Ireland we first had to fly from Charlotte. We had a 8 hour layover there so we arranged to meet Alethea's aunt and uncle. They picked us up from the airport for brunch. We went downtown and enjoyed a nice brunch before David and Michelle took us back to the airport where we waited a couple hours before catching our flight. It was nice to spend time with them. I even forgot for a few moments that we had a flight later that evening!

Ok now on to Ireland. Dublin was our first destination within Ireland. Dublin is a city we have both been to before so we concentrated on doing some things that we had not done before for the most part. We visited the Kilmainham Jail, the Natural History Museum, Dublin Castle, George Beatty Museum, and visited a few pubs along the way. The items I enjoyed more than others were the George Beatty Museum and the Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum is free and the George Beatty Museum was included on our Heritage Card ( ). If you are going to be in Ireland for a week or more and plan to visit at least a couple areas where there are national heritage sites then I would highly recommend this card. It cost 21 euros per person but you quickly get your money worth. We are nearly two weeks into Ireland and have visited 52.50 euros worth of sites. We probably would not have gone to all of the site listed but we would have definitely been to more than 21 euros worth of sites and we still have another week left. Unfortunately, the card is only good for sites in Ireland and not in Northern Ireland.

Dublin Castle
After two nights in Dublin we picked up our rental car and started driving around the island. We have a black 4 door Renault that Alethea has been doing an excellent job of driving considering the steering wheel is on the right and the manual transmission is on her left. Here is a quick rundown of all the cites and towns we have been in so far. The first place we spent the night after Dublin was in Kilkenn. We then spent a night in Cashel while touring the Rock of Cashel. We drove on the next day and made short stops in Cork and Cobh before ending up in Kinsale. The next night was spent in Kenmare. The following day we spent driving the Ring of Kerry before spending two nights in Dingle. We then drove from Dingle to Galway where we also spent two nights. After Galway we spent the night on the Aran Island of Inishmore. We drove the next day to Westport before heading to Donegal for a night. As a write this post we are spending two nights in the far north of Ireland in Dunfanaghy before crossing the border into Northern Ireland.

Celtic cross @ the Rock of Cashel
As you can see we have covered quite a bit of ground over the last two weeks. I've enjoyed the beautiful scenery and places we have visited. I could go into detail on all the places but that would be one long blog post. Instead I'll highlight just a couple. One area I really liked was Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula. The scenery is breathtaking and the loop drive is much shorter than the Ring of Kerry. I like the cliffs next to the sea and the pass through the mountains. I also enjoyed a pub we stopped at that brewed the beer we drank. It also had a dog that walked around freely. It is hard to beat a pub with a dog in it. The other activity I would like to highlight is the Aran Island of Inishmore. We drove a hour outside of Galway and caught a 45 minute ferry to Inishmore. While on the island we rented bicycles and rode around the island for an afternoon including visiting the 2,000 year old Celtic fort Dun Aenghus. The fort is built on the edge of 300 ft. sea cliffs that drop straight off into the Atlantic Ocean. There is no safety fence either at the top. You could literally walk right off them. Lawyers in the U.S. would never let that happen. 

Dun Aenghus - 2,000 year old Celtic fort on Inishmore Island
I think that pretty much sums up what we've been up to over the last couple weeks. I would say so far so good. We are experiencing some beautiful scenery and visiting some interesting places. To date Ireland reminds me somewhat of New Zealand mainly because it is so green, towns looks similar at times, and distances are not that great. New Zealand's natural beauty is more pronounced though. We are eating very well at the B&B's and pubs along the way. I've enjoyed learning more about Irish history. I was somewhat familiar with but it but it is always better to experience it in person. Unfortunately, a lot of Irish history has been pretty sad and should not be romanticized. It is amazing how far they have come as a country. We have enjoyed pretty decent weather or at least nothing we didn't really expect. The high's have been in the upper 50's to low to mid 60's. It has rained some about every day and more on some days than others but that is pretty much the norm in Ireland. We even experienced a few days of high winds and at least a day of heavier than normal rain that was left over from hurricane Katia which spun over here after visiting the US.

Alethea on the Dingle Peninsula 
I would say about the only negatives so far is that sometimes the pace has been a little fast at times. I'd like to slow it down just a little bit but there really isn't anything I would change though. Ireland and Europe are not cheap. Sitting still can cost a lot. I'm glad we're taking it easy today though. Another issue has been it has proven at times to be a little tricky finding our B&Bs and other destinations. Google Maps hasn't been all that accurate. I even tried using a European site (AA) and it wasn't much better once we got into the more rural western parts of Ireland. Streets and highways aren't always mapped clearly. I miss being able to use Google Maps on my GPS enabled cell phone that pinpoint a location down to a couple meters:). In Ireland many of the B&B's just list the street they are on and rarely list a street number. Driving itself hasn't been too bad. One interesting thing to note about Irish roads is that they post the speed limit based on the classification of the road and not how the road it laid out. The speed limit will be posted as 80 km (50 mph) or 100 km (62 mph) per hour despite the road being very winding and generally unsafe for those speeds. There seems to be little thought of what the safe driving conditions should be.

Slieve League - these cliffs are amost 2,000 ft up
This wraps up this post. It has been a fun and busy two weeks in Ireland. I'm looking forward to Northern Ireland to see if or how different it may be from the Republic of Ireland. I know it is one place I thought I wouldn't visit. I remember back in high school reading about all the bombings and attacks. It has been relatively peaceful over the last ten years or so but they have had a recent uptick in events. They even had a police officer murdered within the last week or so that was attributed to the IRA. I read in a guidebook that it was only in 2006 that British Army checkpoints were taken down. Hopefully, time will heal all wounds as it has in other places but the Irish do have a long memory :-). I do find it interesting how the Irish refer to British rule as the 700 year occupation. One last note on something that I'm enjoying doing more of and that is taking short videos in some of the places we've been. You can see them all on YouTube plus they automatically post to my twitter and Facebook pages after they're uploaded so feel free to check them out. They are usually less than 30 seconds.

Here is a link to the full picture albums. They are still in a work in process.

Ireland Part I
Ireland Part II