Monday, March 16, 2015

County Clare, Tullamore & Dublin, Ireland (Day 10)

The next morning we packed up and got back on the bus to head to the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre.  At the Centre we took a tour with a guide who taught us how Irish whiskey is made and ended with a tasting of three different whiskeys.

The tasting table all set up
My tasting glasses
Mom and dad during the tasting -- he wasn't a fan
After the tasting we continued on to Dublin and checked in for our last night in Ireland.

Our hotel the last night

That evening we headed down the street to the basement of a pub where we listened to The Irish House Party.  We had a great time and really enjoyed their music.

The Irish House Party
Our tour guide, Kim
Early the next morning we got up and headed to the airport to make our way back to the states.
Itinerary: "Enjoy a relaxing morning at the castle before you return to Dublin. Along the way, visit the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre where you will learn how Irish whiskey is made and enjoy a tasting. Tonight, come to know Ireland’s true secret – its people. Meet a few of the boisterous locals over a pint when you enjoy a drink and entertainment at a local pub and see why the Irish are known for their generous and hospitable nature."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Killarney, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland (Day 9)

The next morning we packed up and got back on the bus.  After a bit of driving and a short ferry ride, we arrived at the very windy Cliffs of Moher.  We had a little over an hour to explore the cliffs and grab lunch.  We were amazed at how many people would get way too close to the edge of the cliff to take pictures.. bad idea!  Especially with how windy it was.
View from the Ferry
The Cliffs of Moher

O'Brien's tower
Cliffs of Moher
After the Cliffs, we continued on our way but stopped for a quick look at The Burren, Ireland's smallest national park; the area we had a few minutes to explore was covered in limestone pavement.
The Burren, Poulnabrone portal tomb in the distance
Then we went on to our home for the night, Dromoland Castle.  It was so sweet, when we went to our (huge) room there was a little Dromoland Castle bear for Ella.  We explored the grounds in our free time before dinner and found a garden and lake nearby.

Our room (Lisa Ella and me)
Gate to the garden
Exploring the gardens at Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle
Swan by the lake
That night we took group pictures at the entrance to the castle and just inside and then had a formal dinner.  Unfortunately our family ended up getting split up because there weren't enough seats for us available at one table.

Family photo outside of Dromoland Castle
Itinerary: "Depart Killarney and travel across the countryside of Kerry to the River Shannon. A short ferry ride will bring you across the river to the Clare coast. Journey to the stunning 700-foot-high Cliffs of Moher for awe-inspiring views of the mighty Atlantic and the Aran Islands. Then, travel through the vast limestone landscape of the Burren, known for its stark beauty and Neolithic tombs. Continue past scenic countryside to the fairytale setting of Dromoland Castle. Overnight in this castle and toast your magnificent trip during a fabulous formal dinner."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Killarney & Dingle Peninsula, Ireland (Day 8)

On the eighth day of our trip, our tour took us out to the Dingle Peninsula.  We stopped at a few stores along the way.  The first one was just outside of Killarney at the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe called Moriarty's.  I bought a couple of instruments for my niece and nephew while there and my sister found a few gifts as well.  The next stop was at a jewelry store called Brian de Staic.  The store specializes in engraving jewelry with words written in Ogham, an early medieval alphabet used to write the Irish language.  We had seen some ancient stones with Ogham letters etched into them on the way to the store on the side of the road.
Stones with Ogham letters
After looking at the jewelry store, we stopped in Dingle for a couple of hours to shop and eat lunch.  I found a gift in a wool shop and Lisa found a few more gifts, then we had a quick lunch before getting back on the bus to continue the scenic drive.

Scenery of the Dingle Peninsula
Scenery of the Dingle Peninsula
Scenery of the Dingle Peninsula

Mom and dad 
When we arrived back in Killarney, we were dropped off at Kenmare Place to go on a jaunting car (carriage) ride through Killarney National Park.  The park is one of the largest areas of natural woodland in Ireland and spans over 26,000 acres.

Our jaunt car driver telling us about the park
Killarney National Park 
Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park
We really enjoyed our hilarious driver, he was quite the character.  Every time we passed someone in the park, he'd greet them with a loud, "Aaaahhhhhh-lowww!"
Ross Castle in the distance, a 15th century tower house
My family with our jaunt driver
After the ride we explored the shops of High Street before having dinner at a place that served fish and chips.  When we were done with that, we headed back to our rooms at the nearby Killarney Towers Hotel.

High Street
Killarney Towers Hotel
Itinerary: "Set off this morning to follow what is perhaps Ireland’s most majestic coastal route – the stunning Dingle Peninsula. Stop at the Gap of Dunloe where you can shop for traditional Irish goods handcrafted by local artisans. Travel to the town of Dingle and then drive the beautiful Slea Head road, where some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes are found."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blarney & Killarney, Ireland (Day 7)

On Friday morning (Ella's birthday), we packed up and loaded onto the tour bus out of Dublin.  We stopped on the side of the road for a few minutes at one point to take pictures of the Rock of Cashel,

Rock of Cashel
Outside of Blarney Castle
A few minutes later made a 20-minute scone and cappuccino stop, then we continued until we reached Blarney Castle, where we had a couple of hours to explored.  All five of us ended up making the twisting climb up to the top so Ella, Lisa and I could attempt to kiss the Blarney Stone.  I had NO IDEA that you had to lay down on your back and scoot into a sort of hole at the top of the castle and bend backwards to kiss this stone!  Yikes!  Ella ended up being too little for it so she blew a kiss.

Outside of Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle
Ella on her way to kiss the stone
Me kissing the stone
The line to kiss the stone
My parents at the top of Blarney Castle
After kissing the stone, we all made the trek back down and took a few minutes to check out the Poison Garden before going back to where we were dropped off to grab lunch, do a quick gift shop look and get back on the bus.
Mom, dad and me in front of Blarney Castle
Marijuana in the Poison Garden at Blarney
That evening we arrived in Killarney.  I wandered around the town a little bit and bought a couple of little birthday gifts for Ella before heading back to meet everyone for dinner.

Ella's little birthday celebration during dinner
Itinerary: "Begin your day with a brief stop in the town of Cashel for views of the historic Rock of Cashel, the reputed location where St. Patrick preached and converted the King of Munster. Next, journey to historic Blarney Castle where you have the opportunity to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Legend has it that those who kiss the stone are bestowed with the gift of eloquence. You will also have time to shop at the famous Blarney Woollen Mills, the world’s largest Irish gift store. End your day in charming Killarney."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dublin, Ireland (Day 6)

On Thursday we started off the day with 7:30 am breakfast at the hotel and then met our guide for the week, Kim, and coach driver Damien.  At 8:30 everyone loaded onto the bus for our tour of Dublin.  On the tour, we learned that Maldron Hotel where we were staying was in the modern part of the city, which explained why everything looked so new on our cab ride in.

46 Fitzwilliam Square
During our ride around town on the bus, Sally told us that one of the fashions many years ago had called for ladies to wear makeup on their faces that was a combination of wax, lead and a touch of arsenic!  She explained that if we visited museums, we might see the screen they had to sit behind while by the fire, a rectangular one at the top of a pole to block their face so it wouldn't melt.  She said the next fad to follow had them wearing mouse fur as false eyebrows... yuck!

As we drove around the city our guide for that morning's tour, Sally, told us that the national emblem of Ireland is the harp, and that the Samuel Beckett Bridge, directly across from our hotel was meant to look like a harp.  We drove along the River Liffey and crossed over the Rosie Hacket Bridge, the only one named after a woman in the city.  Damien drove us by several notable buildings and landmarks including the Custom House, Spire of Dublin on O'Connell Street.  We also went down Grafton Street and saw where the statue of Molly Malone usually stands, but it had been relocated for construction on the train lines.  Sally had Damien stop for a few minutes at an area with lots of doors so we could take picture of one in particular, at 46 Fitzwilliam Square, the most photographed door in Dublin.

From there we went onto Saint Patrick's where Sally led us on a tour through the cathedral.

The floor of St. Patrick's Cathedral

Inside of St. Patrick's Cathedral

Stained glass in St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral
Once we finished at Saint Patrick's, we were taken to Guinness Storehouse where we were led through, learning how the beer is made and the history of the company.  I really loved the way they presented the first part of the museum that showed and explained each of the ingredients required for the brewing.

Our tour guide at Guinness
Guinness Lisa and I poured

After our tour, Lisa and I used our free beer tickets (comes with admission) to go to "Guinness Academy," where we learned to pour the perfect pint.  Interesting!  I'd seen bartenders pour beer with the cup angled before but never really understood why.  After that the whole family headed up to the top floor to their beautiful Gravity Bar that offers a 360 degree view of Dublin, then we grabbed some lunch.

My sister and me
The view from Gravity Bar

They also had a floor for the company's advertising history, but it only opened a little bit before we had to get on the bus back to the hotel so we didn't get much time to see it.

When we got back to the hotel, we took naps for a while and then I ended up going out to wander up and down the river in the rain.  Burrr it was cold.  But it was the only chance to get to see more of Dublin before leaving the next morning.  I walked up and down the water and saw "Famine," Jeanie Johnston which was a replica of a ship that made 16 journeys to North America carrying 2,500 people with no casualties, and "The Linesman."

"Famine" memorial in Dublin

The Jeanie Johnston replica 

"The Linesman"
At 5:30 we loaded back onto the bus for our "Taste of Ireland" dinner at O'Connells at Donnybrook.  The first course there was a sampling of a ton of different Irish foods, then I had Hake for my main course and an apple tart for dessert.  Yum!  The owner was so sweet, at the very end he brought out a decorated plate and dessert for Ella's doll she's carried everywhere, Abigail.

O'Connells at Donnybrook
Our "Taste of Ireland" menu
All of us with the owner of O'Connell's
When we got back from dinner, I grabbed my tripod (brought it all this way, figured I might as well use it) and headed out to take pictures.  While I was taking pictures of the Samuel Beckett Bridge, a guy stopped and asked if I could take his picture.  We ended up talking for probably 30 minutes and walking around taking a few more pictures; he was a junior in college, originally from New Jersey but visiting Dublin after a job training in London.  After a few minutes longer of pictures after we parted ways, I headed back to the hotel.

Me with the Samuel Beckett Bridge in the background
Jeanie Johnston
Itinerary: "Today, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Dublin, the “Fair City.” Take in O’Connell Street, Grafton Street, Phoenix Park and the city's magnificent rows of stately Georgian town homes. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century. Your tour concludes at the Guinness Storehouse where you will learn about the brewing process that creates this beloved beverage. This is your chance to discover the training and technique needed to pour the perfect pint and to enjoy one! The remainder of the day is at leisure to relax in one of the world’s most vibrant cities. Take advantage of the opportunity to explore the cultural offerings of delightful Dublin on your own."