Monday, September 7, 2015

Out and about in Ireland!

We are riding in the bus now, just left Killarney, heading for our last hotel stop in Ireland, Newmarket-on-Fergus.  It seems like a good time to fill you in on some our outings in Ireland.  We got up early this morning (most of you know that I am NOT a morning person!). Suitcases had to be packed and outside our rooms at 7:30am (for the porter to take to the coach). We ate breakfast at 7:30 and were out the door at 8:20.  We hopped into horse-drawn jaunting carts.  The carts held 8 people...6 in the back and 2 up front with the driver.  Well, you KNOW that Lenore and I spoke right up and asked to ride up front with the driver!  

Michael, our driver (or "Jarvey") was adorable...a true Irishman with a great brogue and the ubiquitous gift of gab!  As it was a cool morning, we were given wool blankets (called "hankey-pankey" blankets...keep your hands on the top!) and we took off for a jaunt through the Killarney National Park to scenic Ross Castle.  This park was gorgeous, set on the shores of Killarney's largest lake, Leogh Leanne!  It was a cool grey morning, with a bit of the mist in the looked just like what an Irish morning should look like!

Yesterday we had a beautiful drive around the Dingle Penninsula. Our coach driver is amazing, just so adept at maneuvering on the narrow winding roads!  We just kick back, and enjoy the scenery!  We had perfect skies and lots of sunshine, which made the colors of the landscape even more intense...the green fields, with all the little stone walls looks like a patchwork quilt!  Throw in a few spectacular ocean/bay views and you have miles and miles of intense beauty that will take your breath away.  

Ron on his personal quest to find the best fish and chips in all of Ireland...these were pretty good, but Ron is still doing some product research!

We drove to Slea Head which is the westernmost point of Ireland.  As Dennis, our guide said, the next parish you would come to is Boston!!  We also toured the small Dingle Brewing Company and got to pour our own beers.  This is a relatively new brewery with tasty beer.  

We bought 4 cans to bring home, hopefully they will make it home for our boys to try.  (Hope WE don't have to break into them when our cocktail hour gin runs out!!!). 

We are hearing lots of great traditional Irish music...Lenore and I are planning a special Festivus music program for all you Hunts!  Of course we will have to be well lubricated with Guinness before serranading all of you with CarrickFergus, Black Velvet Band, and Christmas in Killarney!!  I had a great experience in Dingle yesterday when we were wandering through the cute little town.  I saw a music store up a little lane so Gary and I wandered up.  There was a little old man sitting outside with a plate of lunch (salmon!) and a glass of wine.  There was also a cat sitting on his table.  We went in to look around and Gary quickly left.  I picked up a cd and didn't see any shopkeeper to pay.  I poked my head out the door and asked the man eating lunch with the cat.  He took a sip of wine, wiped his mouth with his napkin, shoed  the cat off the table and came in his store...muttering something about the cat eating his salmon!   He looked at my cd and nodded, saying it was a good one.  When I told him I picked it because it had the song Carrickferfus on it, he paused, looked me over, then picked up the old accordion on the floor, asked if I could sing, and then he serranaded me with that song I love, Carrickfergus!!  (There is a Van Morrison album where he plays with The Chieftans and this song makes me cry!).  Being serranaded by this proper little old Irish gentleman was another one of those magical moments...I sure wish the rest of my family had been there to see it!!

One of the most popular things to see in Ireland is the Blarney Stone, and we spent an afternoon there.   It is really a beautiful location.  We wandered through the castle grounds, the ruins of Blarney Castle looming above us!  

There were miles of paths meandering through camellia glens, fern groves, poison gardens, rose gardens, etc.  One of the most unusual things there was a grove of trees that had been "yarn bombed"!  As a knitter, this just made me was so fun and cheery to see!  

We decided to brave the climb to the top of the tower...this was very slow moving, in a super narrow winding stone staircase.  Most of the steps were only a few inches wide!  Once to the top we had to walk along a rampart to get to the spot where you could kiss the Blarney Stone and receive "the gift of eloquence"! Some of you may know that Gary has a pretty substantial fear of heights, so this walk along the rampart, where you could look down and really see how high up you were, was a real problem.  He was kind of frozen, unable to move forward. This is a problem as it is narrow and all single file...if Gary couldn't move forward, nobody in the enclosed circular stone staircase could get up or down!  Finally Gary crouched down so he couldn't see over the edge...and he could walk on and move ahead.  This is me cracking up as I watched my husband, The Hunchback of Blarney Castle.  

(Sorry...I have a photo of Ron bending backward to kiss the Blarney Stone, but I can seem to get it to land here!!  A case of the Android photo not wanting to play on the Apple iPad!!!  Sorry!).   :-( 


Suddenly a young man just a few people in front of us, got down on his knee and proposed to his girlfriend right there at the Blarney Stone...she said yes and we all clapped!  It was a really fun moment to be a part of!  Ron was the only one in our group who actually kissed the stone.  I actually remember doing this when I was a young girl traveling in Ireland with my Oma and Opa.  When I commented to Lenore that I couldn't believe my grandparents had climbed up there with me...Lenore "gently" reminded me that my grandparents were probably not much older then than we are NOW!

Fun fact of the day:  Ireland has the highest per capita incidence of Celiacs Disease/gluten intolerance in the world (#2 is Sicily). We are finding Ireland to be just as accommodating as Norway was...menus are clearly marked, GF bread is available at every meal, and wait staff are so understanding and careful with Gary's food, in a very matter of fact way.  In fact, we just stopped at at little town called Adare to see their thatched roof houses, and even the little restaurant in the visitor center proudly offered up gluten free bread. In this same town we popped into the pharmacy and they have shelves of gluten free breads, crackers, cookies and flours.  

 It is so frustrating to think that the USA prides itself on being "the best" and #1 in all things...this is one area where we fall so short, it is appalling.  Europe is far and away ahead of us in this matter.  

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