Ring of Kerry Day

This morning we woke up at our B&B in Killarney, had an amazing breakfast, and continued to debate whether or not to drive the ring of Kerry ourselves.

The Ring of Kerry is a 150 mile stretch around the Iveragh Peninsula in the southwest of Ireland. It is well known for it’s amazing views of the ocean, cliffs, and vast, untouched, green, hilly landscapes. It is also well known for it’s narrow, windy roads that come very close to cliff edges. It’s a two-lane road, despite the fact that there is often very little room for one car.

After a little chat with the lady who runs the B&B, Alana decided that she was confident in driving the route herself. After all, big tour buses do it every single day… Certainly our little subcompact would have no problem.

It turns out that it wasn’t nearly as bad as we had imagined. Apparently we have become much better at driving on the other side of the road now. We have actually driven in areas that seemed much tighter in earlier portions of the trip.

Along the way, we stopped dozens of times to snap photos of the amazing scenery. Alana was especially excited to see so many sheep and cows.

Our little tour books guided us down some special paths that even the buses couldn’t go down. We received some extra special views, off the beaten path, that most of the tourists that jumped on the buses didn’t see. It was pretty spectacular.

About half way through the ring it became really foggy outside. Visibility got worse the higher up in to the hills we got. That may have been a good thing though… As we passed along cliff-sides we lost all perception of how high up we really were.

We decided to stop for lunch at a little restaurant on a beach called O’Carrolls. Apparently it’s the only beach front restaurant in Ireland. Alana had a mountain of Mussels while I ate a delicious steak sandwich. We snapped some photos on the beach and finished off the ring.

The last 15 miles or so were the absolute tightest but we were lucky because we seemed to be passing during a low traffic period. These were also some of the most amazing views because you had hillsides to the left of you with the Atlantic ocean to right. The water was crystal clear and looked like glass. The ring ended in the Killarney national park which had some of the best views we had seen yet.

We finished up the ring and headed back to the hotel. Alana took a little nap while I plugged in all the places we had been on a Google map.

After Alana’s nap, we headed back in to town and ate a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Mac’s where I enjoyed a Sheppards pie and Alana ate her first Irish hamburger of the trip. We both enjoyed a Murphy’s Irish Stout and finished it all off with a chocolate milkshake.

We headed down the street to O’Connell’s pub to enjoy another pint and some traditional Irish music before heading back to the B&B to call it a night.

Alana and I are both looking forward to moving on to the next town. Killarney is nice but it seems like the tourists far outnumber the locals. We’re looking forward to getting in to some towns that aren’t quite as well known. We’ll see where we end up tomorrow.

Cheers,

Matt & Alana 

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Our Journey So Far

Our Journey So Far

I found this cool little mapping program. You can see exactly where we’ve been so far. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the exact routes we’ve taken but you can get a good idea of the path we’ve traveled so far. Check it out here.

I’ll make sure to keep this update. 🙂

Matt

Blarney and Killarney

This morning we woke up in Kinsale, had breakfast and checked out; There wasn’t really a lot to see (although I’m sure there were things we could have found to do) but it was pretty rainy and a bit windy. 

We filled the rental car up with gas, which was an adventure in itself…you actually pay after you fill up, which is weird! I guess they don’t think anyone will split without paying…and then headed on our way to Blarney.

In Blarney we got a little lost for a couple minutes, and then just had to follow road signs to Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. It is said to give the gift of gab to whoever kisses it. You can google the information on it to see the different speculations about why the stone is so famous. (Matt thinks it’s just an ordinary stone with no importance that they hyped up to get tourists to pay exorbitant amounts to kiss. This may be actually true.) The stone itself is set in one of the battlements high atop Blarney Castle, where you have to climb a ton of skinny, narrow, tight spiral stairs to get to. Then you lie on your back, scoot out into the battlement, and a guide holds you to keep you from falling as you lean backwards and kiss the stone. Alana kissed the stone and actually heard later that tourists kiss the stone and locals pee on it. (It’s a good thing she put antibacterial gel on her lips afterwards.) Unfortunately, we only got a video of Alana kissing the Blarney Stone, which we can’t post on here; and they actually don’t let you take pictures at all, but they have it all set up so THEY can take pictures and sell them to you for 10 euro a piece. *sigh*

On the way up (and down from) the stone you can explore the different rooms of the castle, and take pictures of the fantastic scenery around Blarney Castle and gardens. There are the standard cows of course, wonderful trees and shrubs, green green grass, and the remains of the ancient walls of Blarney and lookout towers. Also on the grounds and Blarney house (which we didn’t opt to see) and Rock Close, which is the remains of an ancient Druid civilization. It was fun exploring the ruins and hearing the magic and culture behind it all. It was still pretty rainy and misty throughout our journey in Blarney but our newly purchased REI rain jackets kept us nice and dry. It probably kept some of the crowds at bay, but not enough, surely.

After Blarney we headed to Killarney, where our B&B was waiting for us. We will stay here a couple nights and kind of use it as a base for the Ring of Kerry (tomorrow) and to see the town itself. On the way, we passed through the city of Cork again, which was still trafficy and congested, and he got stopped up in a teensy tinsy little town called Macroon, which looked just like out of a storybook, but it must have been the only way to get through to a further destination because the traffic was a bit slow.

Once we arrived in Killarney, we checked into our wonderful B&B, Woodlawn House, and went out to find some lunch/dinner. We ended up eating at a place in the city center which was also a hotel, but they were practically the only ones serving lunch/dinner at that hour (which was like 3:30ish PM). Matt had a good turkey club and Alana had a BLT along with a whole pot of tea. We met some Canadians who had just taken the bus trip on the Ring of Kerry, and Alana asked whether if they had had the option to take the bus again or drive it themselves, which they would rather do. They were split in their decision so it didn’t help Alana any because she had been debating driving the narrow, treacherous roads on the Ring all day. 

It was too early for any of the pubs to be open so we wandered around the town and went souvenir shopping. We found lots of cool handknit woolen things, along with your cheesy kitchy souvenirs. One thing we noticed about Killarney was that it is a BIG tourist town. Most people use it as their homebase when exploring the South of Ireland. I’d say about 90% of the people we encountered at all were American. 

We then stopped for a hot chocolate and a coffee along with Bailey’s Fudge at a little cafe in town. Because it was still  misting outside it was the perfect ambiance to be cuddled up warm with your coffee and hot chocolate while watching the rain. By this time it was about time for the pubs to start opening, so we stopped in one called Sheehan’s, which had a traditional irish band playing. We discovered later that this particular pub was a haven for tourists, and it wasn’t exactly the experience we’d been hoping for. Still, a couple pints of Smithwicks can cure anything. 🙂

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about “Alana’s Insane Driving on the Left, on the Right Side of the Car on the Treacherous, Tour Bus-Laden Ring of Kerry” trip. 

Cheers! -Alana & Matt

Killkenny to Kinsale

We actually squeezed quite a bit in to our Monday in Ireland. We’ve taken so many pictures it’s hard to decide which ones to post on here. Unfortunately, Tumblr does not make it easy to post a lot of pictures at once. So we’ll fill in all the gaps and upload all the rest of our pictures to Facebook when we get back home. Consider these just teasers. 🙂

Monday morning we woke up and headed to the stables behind our B&B, where breakfast is served. Behind our B&B was a pretty amazing garden with a view of the Kilkenny castle. Our B&B itself was actually built back in the 1700s to house the head builder of the castle. So the building itself was actually quite castle-looking as well. Breakfast was delicious with fried eggs, bacon, croissants, scones, and several different types of sausages.

After breakfast we walked over to the grounds of the Kilkenny castle where we watched a short video on its history and then wandered the grounds, snapping tons of pictures. There was a massive park behind the castle that just seemed like miles and miles of green grass.

We left the castle and wandered down the streets of Kilkenny popping in and out of little shops on our way to St. Canice’s Cathedral. The cathedral was awesome but somehow seemed less impressive after just having walked the grounds of the castle. We snapped some photos and then headed back to the B&B to check out.

The next stop on our trip was the Dunmore caves. At this point our tom-tom let us a little astray and we ended up traveling down several “unnamed roads”, ending up literally in the middle of nowhere. After some major backtracking, we found the main roadway again and managed to get back on track.

Caused by millions of years or erosion, these Dunmore caves go about 150 feet below the ground. They are filled with very cool stalactites and stalagmites and are home to about a thousand bats. The caves were used hundreds of years ago by the Irish people to seek refuge from the attacking vikings. When the caves were discovered by archeologists, the remains of women and children were found. These were the lucky few that weren’t found and slaughtered by the vikings.

After leaving the caves, we took a very scenic route to a town called Cashel to eat lunch. We stopped several times along the way to photograph scenery, animals on the side of the road, an old destroyed castle in the middle of nowhere, and even our little red Hyndai rental car.

We arrived in Cashel to learn that it is home to another castle called the Rock of Cashel. It is very impressive and ominous looking, sitting high on a hilltop above the city. Unfortunately, this castle is currently undergoing some renovations and restorations so we opted not to walk up and take the tour. We ate lunch at a little cafe that cooked delicious homestyle meals. Our waitress was very young and definitely fit the Irish stereotype. We learned that she has big plans to leave Ireland to study and live the American dream in Chicago.

We spent most of the rest of the day just driving. We drove through the town of Cahir, snapped some photos of the castle here and then drove on in to Cork.

Cork is a big industrial city. There is a large harbor here and lots of commotion. We had planned on staying here for the night but things were a little too hectic for us. The streets were congested and it just seemed a little too industrial for us. We drove through town then and opted to head towards a little fishing town, south of Cork, called Kinsale to sleep for the night.

We checked in at a hotel called the Actons hotel and went to our room to plan the rest of our trip. We got so caught up in planning the rest of our route that we realized that we hadn’t eaten dinner yet. It was about 10:30pm at this point and we headed in to town to find some fine dinning. Upon entering the little town, we realized that this place was very quiet. All the shops and restaurants seemed to be closed and we even had a hard time finding a pub with the lights still on. We eventually found at a little fast food joint called Mama Mia’s that, despite the Italian sounding name, served mainly hot dogs and hamburgers. We ate our grub and headed back to the room to sleep for the night.

We’ve got a big day planned for today as well but for now… we’re off to breakfast.

Cheers,

Matt & Alana

Dublin and Rental Cars

For our second night in Dublin we took a walk down Grafton Street and tried to find some grub. We ended up eating at a New Zealand burger place (we had no idea it was a Kiwi burger joint beforehand) and drank some New Zealand beers. Still tried to figure out the tipping customs, because we’ve been told so many things…but I think we settled on a reasonable 10% in restaurants. Back to the hotel in for an early night.

We woke up, checked out of our hotel in Dublin where they held our luggage for us to pick up later, and hopped on the bus to make full use of our passes and find some place for breakfast. Matt and I had saw on one of our maps a crepe restaurant (and I love crepes!!) so we decided to eat there and have some coffee and tea. After that we hopped back on the bus and took a guided circle tour around Dublin, making sure we didn’t miss any stops along the way we may have overlooked on the previous day. We then went back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage and headed for the airport to pick up or rental car, thus ending our stay in the city of Dublin.

After signing our life away (and many euros) for the rental car and a pay-as-you-go cell phone, Matt got to experience driving on the left firsthand. The freeways were a breeze, but the roundabouts were tricky.

We drove to county Wicklow and stopped at the Powerscourt House and Gardens. We  took a walk through the grounds in which the scenery was magnificent. I can only imagine the kind of family that lived there previously.

Next up was Alana’s first left hand driving experience. The bulk of that drive was freeway, so it wasn’t that tricky but he GPS led us astray a couple of times, which resulted in some unnecessary roundabouts and backtracking. We eventually made it to our destination for the day and overnight stay: Kilkenny. Kilkenny is a small medieval town where Smithwicks is brewed. We found one of the B&B’s from our travel book right away and they had a vacancy for us. The older gentleman that greeted the door very much fit in with the name and ambiance of the B&B; Butler House. The hotel is right behind Kilkenny castle, and our room is just wonderful.

After bringing up our things we were starving by that point, so we ate at one of the restaurants the caretaker of Butler House recommended, called Zuni. It was a pretty upscale little restaurant for such a small town, and we definitely felt a bit out of place in our jeans, t’s and merrell hiking shoes. The food was excellent and the cappuccino too.  Then we walked down to the River Nore, where the caretaker had recommended a pub to visit. The pub was called Tynan’s Bridge House, and it’s the oldest pub in Kilkenny. It was once a grocery store and pharmacy, and it still had some of the old spice drawers and scales. There was live music (mostly classic rock…Johnny Cash, Queen…etc.etc.)

So now we’re back at Butler House staying for the night, and tomorrow will be another adventure checking out Kilkenny castle and beyond. 🙂

Cheers-

Alana & Matt

Our First Couple Days in Ireland

The first night we arrived in Dublin we went back to our room, took another nap, and then went in search for a nice restaurant for dinner. Alfie’s seemed like a fitting choice…

Upon arriving at Alfie’s, we immediately ordered our first Guinnesses. We were very pleased to find out that they were actually served nice and cold.

We decided to order the Mexican nachos as an appetizer to get started. We found it quite funny when we received a bowl of chili with nacho cheese Doritos dipped in to it. They were quite tasty nonetheless.

We finished up dinner and went back to the hotel to go to sleep for the night.

This morning we got up kind of late, Alana blew a fuse in our room with her straightener, we ate at a little cafe, and then we walked over to Trinity college.

The college had beautiful stonework and felt very old. We paid 9 euro each to look at an ancient book (The Book of Kells) with about 100 other tourists. It wouldn’t have been worth the cost if it wasn’t for the awesome library on the second floor that made us feel like we were in Harry Potter. We couldn’t take pictures here but it had awesome cathedral ceilings and had floors and floors of really old books that looked like they would disintegrate if you touched them.

When deciding what to do next, a friendly bus driver persuaded us in to getting hop-on-hop-off city tour bus tickets, which turned out to be a good deal.

We hopped on and headed for the Guinness storehouse. We took the tour, heard a random French choir group singing inside, got our free pints, and the view from the 8th floor was amazing.

We hopped back on our bus and headed for Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced jail). This was very interesting and very educational. This was where many political prisoners were held and executed. Apparently no one ever escaped from this jail. They now film a bunch of movies and TV shows inside here.

We hopped back on our bus, got off at the wrong stop, then proceeded to get lost somewhere in Dublin. After walking for about 4 miles, we finally found our way back to the hotel.

Now we’re headed back out to grab some dinner (and another pint or two).

Cheers,

Matt & Alana

The Photos:
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Update about the blog

So Josh told me that people couldn’t post comments on this blog. That kind of defeated the purpose for this whole thing. So I’ve spent about an hour trying to get the comments feature to work and I think I finally got it. I know I know… I’m a nerd. I’m in Ireland and I’m working on getting a blog going.

Anyway… Alana and I are checked in to our hotel. We were so jet-lagged we had to take about a 3 hour nap. I think we’re pretty much good to go for a bit now. The time difference is weird to adjust to. Especially since it doesn’t get dark until about 9:30. It’s about 7:20pm right now and it’s still as bright as noon outside right now. It’s a little weird.

Alright. We’re going to go find some food and some Guinness.

More pictures coming soon! 🙂

-Matt