Well my sister made it across the pond, and we had quite the adventure going around Ireland. We started off in Dublin, where she got to see Trinity’s campus, the buildings I work in, meet some of my classmates, and discovered the Irish Travelers (gypsies). It had been my last day of classes when she arrived, so I let her sleep off some jet lag while I took a GIS exam, then we went to dinner and got pizza with salmon on it (well, technically it was salomon if you believed the menu) – surprisingly good. We visited the Guinness Storehouse and the Book of Kells, and I took her to my favorite local restaurant The Counter. Why is it my favorite you might ask? It’s a burger joint, but they have a whole menu of “burgers in a bowl” where they put your burger/toppings in a salad instead of on a bun…..ideal for those who don’t particularly care for bread. Then Sunday we picked up our rental car and the adventure really began.
Our first stop was Belfast, where we stayed at the Old Rectory Guesthouse, known for their award-winning breakfasts, and deservedly so: Kelly had the duck confit on a bed of baked eggs with herbs, we got fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a French press of delicious coffee, toast with homemade jam, and fresh fruit and yogurt. We did a quick drive-through of Belfast, but it’s not my favorite city, and far more exciting things lay ahead in Antrim, where we arrived after a scenic drive up the coast. Here, we went to the Giant’s Causeway, tried out the rope bridge, and toured the Bushmill’s Distillery. Kelly tried her first fish ‘n chips in Ireland, but I don’t think that it lived up to expectation….it’s a bit greasy. At least she can say she did it. Then we headed off to Donegal for a quick stop on our way to the west coast.
We forsook Galway city, as neither of us are exceptionally fond of cities, and headed down to Doolin where the Cliffs of Moher reside. Talk about a majestic sight. You really have to see them in person to appreciate their magnitude. We went to the pub that night and enjoyed some fresh seafood, Irish red ales, and live music. I hadn’t realized just how close we were to the Burren where I went with my classmates in the fall, so I took Kelly to see the dolmens. We also stopped in and took the tour of one of the old stone-ring forts. They had a bookshelf in their café of old books for your perusal, or purchase for a few euro should you really enjoy. Kelly found me a pocket-sized field guide to plants of the British Isles from 1941, and a Universal Reference Guide from Scotland in the 1950s…..very interesting reads, so I bought them for my own coffee table. We lunched in Limerick on our way to Killarney National Park where we went horseback riding by the lovely lakes and the Ring of Kerry. And no-one ended up too sore…..
The next stop on our journey was Cork city, but it wasn’t really for us….maybe because it’s a city, or maybe because this was our one B&B that wasn’t so nice. I think the cold shower in the morning sealed its fate (and its reviews on Trip Advisor and booking.com). So we canceled our second night’s stay and high-tailed it out of there in the morning to Blarney Castle. Now Blarney Castle is absolutely touristy, but absolutely wonderful at the same time. They turn you lose to explore the castle and grounds as you please, with loads of signs full of snarky comments (usually aimed at the British) to guide you. Kelly kissed the Blarney Stone, so she is now gifted with eloquence. As fascinating as the castle is itself, the ground are equally spectacular: there’s a poison garden, the stables, wishing steps, the Witch’s kitchen, and endless pretty plants to satisfy any botanist. That afternoon, we headed south of the city to the sea and went kayaking (Kelly agreed to indulge me….). But we both ended up having a blast. We got to eat seaweed and chat to some of the local fisherman – very colorful. Since we had ditched our last B&B, we just started driving towards Waterford and along the way found the Seaview B&B. Not that you could tell at night, but in the morning you understood where the name came from. I think this was Kelly’s favorite day of the trip.
After an excellent night’s sleep at the Seaview, I dragged Kelly to little village of Ardmore. I’d read about it in a novel, and thought it would be neat to see how the author’s interpretation lived up to the reality. We visited the ruins of St. Declan’s church, and took the cliff trail for a bit of a walk. It’s definitely not much of a tourist spot, at least at this time of year, so it gave you a better idea of actual small-town Irish life. We continued on to Waterford city for our last day on the road. We took the obligatory tour of the Waterford Crystal factory, which is well worth the money. You get to watch the laborers actually working with the crystal. And they talk to you and let you touch the stuff. We toured Reginald’s Tower, part of the Viking Triangle, and learned all about the Viking invasion (and expulsion) in Ireland. While walking around we found a little French restaurant running an early-bird special, so we made reservations and ate there, before having a few drinks at the Dry Dock Bar and listening to some more live music.
In the morning we headed back to Dublin, returned the car, got noodles from a local noodle bar for lunch, and went to another early-bird 3-course special at a restaurant called The Pig’s Ear I’ve wanted to try out. For Kelly’s very last day, we were completely lazy and did nothing at all – every holiday should have a day on which to do nothing. Kelly took on Plants vs. Zombies on my Kindle Fire, and I made it through the first year of Lego Harry Potter on her iPad. Monday morning I took her back to the airport and we said our goodbyes. A very good trip indeed.