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A page dedicated to our Irish Honeymoon and vacation, April 2008.
Our choice, the Irish Legends tour was conducted by CIE, a sort of government subsidized tourism company.


All pictures taken with a Canon G5, at full resolution. They are owned by me, but you may use them for whatever you want, provided you tell me (email: crawdaddy79@gmail.com) where you're using them, and that you do not claim ownership of them. If you ask nice enough, I may even send you a larger version.


Well, this page has been a long time coming. We went to Ireland in April of 2008... and it's what... the middle of September now? (Yes, it is.) (Not anymore.) (When is it now?) (February of 2011.) (Holy cow. What happened? Were you sick?) (No.) (Injured?) (No.) (Then, what?) (Good question. Now quit wasting my time and let me finish this, lest the next update be in June of 2012.)

It started with a simple question... "Where do you want to go for our honeymoon?". The answer was easy - because during my travels while I was in the army, one of the places I got to go was Ireland. Of all the places I'd gone to, Ireland was the one that triggered the most envy out of my then-girlfriend who could not go with me. Plus, I'm not a fan of tropical places (too hot) (also I'm fat and pale), so that eliminated at least 50% of common honeymoon spots anyway.

I received no objection at the notion of going to Ireland for our honeymoon from my then-fiancee. We got married in March of 07, and neither of us had enough vacation time to go to Ireland that year (me just being out of the military and all), so we elected to go the following year, around the same time as our anniversary. We found a travel agent and asked him about different options/kinds of trips we could take over there. There were several choices... A) Rent a car and go to pre-assigned destinations, essentially taking a tour around the country on your own and getting discounts where you go (NO! They drive on the left side of the road over there. I don't think I can handle that... people tried to tell me that it really isn't hard to get used to but I don't believe them). B) Don't rent a car and take public transportation around the country, walking most of the time (this sounded okay - but also sounded stressful. I didn't want to spend 30 - 45 minutes of the vacation waiting on a bus that we might have caught had we gotten there 5 minutes earlier). C) Take a coach tour.

And a coach tour it was! Not only was it cheaper (didn't have to pay for a car, gas, or public transportation) but it had stops that we would not have stopped at had we gone on our own. Also a lot of the individual tours were at no extra charge, most meals were paid for... blah blah yeah this is boring I know. Long story short it sounded like the best option by far.

We paid for it, got our passports, and flew straight to Philadelphia. And then we flew straight to Dublin. We arrived between influxes of people in our "group" and were sitting around at the airport for a good long while. During this time I got my first shock on how worthless the US Dollar is when we bought two coffees for $8. Well, I guess this doesn't sound so bad if you're comparing it to Starbuck's... Anyway, after an hour of waiting/sitting on the floor near the CIE tour booth they finally felt sorry enough for us that the bus driver and tour guide, the hospitable and humorous Jim Lynch would take us to our hotel as the only people on the bus. We sat up front (of course) and got a pretty good view of Dublin (except for the part where we were in a tunnel for 10 minutes or so... that wasn't very exciting). I remember him trying to pull out of the parking spot and his cell phone rang... and he sat there blocking parking lot traffic for a good 30 seconds or so as he slowly backed out of the parking space with one hand. Another thing I remember is him saying was that the new Dublin logo is the crane - and when we exited on the other side of the tunnel I saw why. Construction was happening everywhere. We talked about a lot of things, but since I waited so long to write this I don't remember most of it.

Our bus driver had quite a time finding a place to park the bus for us to unload our bags... There was no hotel parking at all, and the street was one lane with no shoulder... He promptly pulled up onto the sidewalk and we got out and checked into the hotel. We noticed a bunch of people sitting in the lobby... older folk, obviously American. We got keys to our room instantly, and a few of them looked angry as they were obviously waiting for their rooms to be ready, and we got ours so handily. It was that day that we were to walk the streets of Dublin with a tour guide, and visit a few historic places, including the Guinness storehouse. We were dead tired from jet lag, so we took a nap on our somewhat uncomfortable bed (two twins pushed together with Queen sheets on top). After our nap, we went to the lobby to gather up and get on the bus to tour places around Dublin... and come to find out, these "older folk" half sleeping in the lobby earlier were part of our tour group. Not only that, but more "older folk" who got their rooms before we arrived joined us. It was at this point that I came to a revelation: coach tours are the preferred means of travel for senior citizens. Other than one woman, in her mid 30's traveling with her parents, you could have added my age to my wife's and we would still be the youngest person there. All this does is attribute to the wisdom of my wife and I, as our preferences aligned with that of those that are wisest.

Cobblestone alley, adjacent to the Guinness factory.
Chester Beatty Courtyard
Dublin incoming traffic.
The entrance to the Guinness storehouse and factory, facing out. You can see the "NESS" on the right as proof.
Taken from inside Dublin castle, looking out of a window. Interior courtyard of Chester Beatty Library. Made me hungry for spaghetti.
The tail end of morning traffic trying to get into Dublin. It was a few miles long, but nothing in comparison to I-95N into DC.

As you may be able to tell, there is a smudge in the upper left corner of the picture of the lawn-park-thing. On bright pictures, this smudge will plague my photographs until much later, when I notice it, and wipe my lens clean. Also don't mind the black edges around the aforementioned picture... those are there because I rotated it slightly to level it out and forgot to crop it properly (these pictures were selected and modified a very long time ago and I'm not in the mood to go through them again). (UPDATE: I went through them again. Fixed it.) (Not that you saw the update, because I haven't published this page yet... not officially, anyway.) (Aren't you glad you're reading this?)

The Guinness factory tour wasn't so much a tour as it was a "Go in here, follow the signs". There was a lot to see and a lot to do, but unfortunately there wasn't much time to do it. Lots of history, lots of exhibits... people sitting behind counters with displays on entire floors with no one walking around, while the Gravity Room (the place where you get your free glass of Guinness) was packed with kids just out of college for the day. In hindsight, I would have not gone to the Gravity Room, as the Guinness there tasted just like any old Guinness in the states, and throughout our trip the Guinness I had in various restaurants and pubs across the country tasted better. The place was pretty neat all in all, and what I remember most are the Dyson hand dryers (picture found on internet) in the restrooms that you just won't see in the US (though you may have seen the commercial for them). I also remember the smell of the place being quite intoxicating. I certainly do love Guinness.

As far as the historical part of the tour went, I don't remember too much of it. The guide talked about how Ireland invested in education... but the thing that caught my attention were when she mentioned tax breaks (because I recently read the same thing in the Fair Tax book) for corporations that relocate to Ireland. Yeah you can invest in education, and it certainly can make you more competitive as a nation, but you need industry in your nation to keep your educated population working there. When you offer low taxes, that's what really invites businesses over (they can just import educated workers if they need to - the U.S. does this all the time)... even though the working wage over there is 50% more than what it is here (well, in USD at least). I know this isn't supposed to be a political post, but at times I think it needs to be mentioned because everyone (we met, interacted with) in Ireland seems to be much more politically aware than I'm used to in the states. [Late edit: I'm two years smarter since I typed this paragraph, and while I still believe in the low tax mantra, there are many more dynamics to economies than I could have guessed at that point, and if I were to write more about it, I'd have to make a separate page.]

After doing the tour(s) around Dublin we were to go back to the hotel and find something to eat (one of the few meals not provided to us by the tour). We ended up taking a cab to a pub somewhere downtown. The waiter was very slow, and didn't speak English. The couple we were eating with (in their early 60's), the guy sitting across from me got fish and chips, and asked for lots of lemon. The waiter returned with a single quarter of lemon on a small plate. There was a little hostility... but eventually the guy got the two lemons (eight quarters) that he wanted. I had Guinness beef stew that was absolutely delicious. I don't remember what the wife got (she says lamb shank, but she's not sure), but it wasn't as good as what I got. The bill totaled 45 Euros for the two of us, which translated into English as $70. After dinner we took a cab back to the hotel, and it was that evening that there was a C.I.E. sponsored "get-together" with a drink (just one, though the brochure did not specify how many... but Jim Lynch definitely did). The back of the pub attached to the hotel was sectioned off for us, and it was very crowded. Everyone introduced themselves, and everyone's eyes were on us. We were the fresh meat of the group, and when they found out we were on our honeymoon it was difficult to escape smiling eyes for the rest of the trip.

We went to bed... I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but it wasn't all that impressive. The lobby was nice, but the room was very small and basic. The view was of a gravel and tar roof top, with another building right on the other side of it. There was a lot of construction going on throughout the day (which made it hard to nap earlier)... Luckily we were only there for one night.

Getting around Dublin was pretty interesting. Glad I wasn't driving. How this guy managed to maneuver this bus around the way he did I'll never really understand. Some sort of leprechaun magic. The place is chock full of narrow roads with narrow lanes; inches of margin of error where buildings are lined up right against the curb. Roundabouts with four lanes are pretty common. That, and cars are not scared to get close to the bus. There were times where a car would disappear completely out of view and no matter how hard I pressed my greasy face to the bus window, I couldn't see it... swearing that it went under the bus. Traffic was fairly bad. Like DC (where I live) they have a commute problem where people working in the city can't afford the housing there... Though it's not nearly to the scale DC is.

Throughout Dublin we got a lot of talk from Jim regarding the skyrocketing house prices and various political speak about how the EU was providing a lot of services to Ireland, while simultaneously sucking away its soul. Below is a quick video of Jim talking about government built housing (I was trying to save space on the memory card so I didn't record for very long).

Screenshot of the video.
VIDEO: 3.6 MB - 15s

Jim talks about corporation housing.

Hills, a bridge, and grass behind the Dolmen Hotel
As the caption says, a tree and flower.
Weeds, houses, and property lines on a hill.
A view from the 'back yard' of the Dolmen Hotel
A tree and a flower in the front yard of the Dolmen Hotel
Another picture taken from behind the Dolmen Hotel. Bascially, looking 90 degrees to the right from the bridge picture. (large)

Screenshot of the video.
VIDEO: 16.7 MB - 1:34

Our bus driver (Jim) talks about how home boundaries work, and how important they are (exciting).

Our very first stop was the Dolmen Hotel. We didn't stay there... we just took a break there. Inside was a pleasing atmosphere common with really old, well maintained establishments. Good coffee. Good soup. Good bread. After eating, I walked outside and looked around... and here's where you see the pictures that I took above.

Still jetlagged it was hard to stay awake during the ride to the next stop, Jerpoint Abbey. I took a lot of pictures of the hours' worth of countryside, but unfortunately (even with the gray skies) there was a lot of reflection on the bus window so you won't see any here (they aren't worth seeing).

Jerpoint Abbey Courtyard
Intricate stonework - windows.
A stone staircase.
I tried to get as much of the scene in the photo as possible by rotating the camera... This the courtyard of Jerpoint Abbey.
An opening... a window of sorts on one side of the abbey. Amazing stonework. (large)
A stairway leading to St. Canice Church.

Jerpoint Abbey was interesting. The thing was basically a 830 year old structure (that's older than I am!) that has fallen apart over the years. While the tour guide was walking the group around talking about history and other boring things, I was exploring, admiring the architecture and the horror movie perfect atmosphere, complete with gray skies, gusts of wind, and squawking ravens.

Screenshot of the video.
VIDEO: 11.2 MB - 0:42

Here is a video of our bus being parallel parked at Kilkenny (I think). There was about two feet at the
rear of the bus, and three feet at the front when it was done. Serious skill. Applause at the end.

Public benches on a patio, and a trash can.
It's a path to St. Canis church.
A canal, to the left of Kilkenny Castle
This picture is good (like all the other ones aren't - ha) because it clearly shows trash on the ground, mere feet away from the trash can.
After walking up the stairway to St. Canice Church, you are met with a path to St. Canice Church.
Kilkenny Castle. Plus a river. And grey skies.

As with any time I have gone to a foreign country, my favorite thing to do was not sightsee or take tours, but rather just walk around the town and observe every day life for the people that live there, and take what I can from it. Walking around Kilkenny was our first opportunity to do this thoroughly. It is exactly what you would expect a good sized Irish town to be. Cobblestone alleys. Traffic jams in narrow roads. Lots of small shops crammed together in centuries old buildings. What I did not expect was graffiti and litter. Many times humorous graffiti, but graffiti nonetheless.

We ate lunch at some tavern, where we were seated underground. Since the dollar -vs- euro was at its least beneficial rate in history at the time we went, we pretty much settled for ~$12 soup and bread for every lunch where we fended for ourselves (as opposed to $18 sandwich and soup, or $20+ real meals). And that's what we had there. Always an adventure, because every place seemed to bake their own bread, and it was different every time. Soup was different from what we are used to as well... It's completely liquid. No chunks of vegetables floating around or anything... it's all puréed (I guess that makes it tastier when you dip your bread into it). That's not to say it wasn't good, in fact every kind of soup we got throughout the trip was delicious. But, it was a tad weird to not have anything to chew - but then again, as I mentioned, that's what the bread is for.

Once done in Kilkenny we departed for the farm house, basically a bed and breakfast, where we would be staying for two nights. The group got split up three ways, to three different houses, and my wife and I were put with the younger group of people ("young" - late 50's - early 60's), mostly from Pennsylvania (they all moved into the same neighborhood at about the same time, and were all NY Giants fans, and that's how they got to know each other and travel together).

Here, unfortunately is where I stopped writing around February, 2009. It is now February, 2011 and I've forgotten much of the trip. I will continue producing the page, and I am very sorry, mostly to myself, for not being able to remember all that's worth remembering while I update. Even reading the first paragraphs of this page, I'm reminded of things that I would not be able to remember, if I were to restart this page from scratch...

The bus stopped at two houses previous ours, and 45 minutes later we arrived at Springview Bed and Breakfast. The hosts greeted us, a lady named Eileen, very prim and proper, and her husband, a tall, white haired guy who looked like he hadn't slept in years and didn't need to. We gathered our bags and loaded them into the house, where the farm owners kids put them away into various rooms. I don't know if they were expecting a tip, and I don't remember if they got one. Behind the house, there was a separate guest 'house', that was just a bed and a bathroom, that I assume wasn't normally used for miscreant tourist guests like us. However, upon finding out that this was our honeymoon, our hosts insisted my wife and I stayed in that separate guest house.

It's just ducks.
It's just a dog.
Great pic of Kilkenny.  You're missing out if you're seeing this text instead.
Irish ducks, swimming in their own drink.
An Irish dog (lived at Springview). Barking at me as though I had a snack, but I had no Guinness to give him (or her).
Bustling Kilkenny. Here, a truck runs a car off the road.

Our first night there was a blast. The group sat around the living room, talking and getting to know each other (and us). Eileen served tea and (I think) some mixed drinks. At one point, she left the room for about 20 minutes, and during that time our conversation degraded all the way down to fart pranks (this is where I first learned about the Dutch Oven), and went silent when she finally walked in with some freshly made snacks. Once she sat down with us, and talked with us, the subject of conversation immediately went to politics and culture. One particular memory: "So, what do you think of Hillary?", Eileen asked, with an excited grin. The room erupted in moans (we were very glad to be with this group). I don't remember how the night went after that (well, I do remember a time when one in the group found or brought an acoustic guitar, and strummed/sung Johnny Cash. I generally don't enjoy sitting and listening to music, but I enjoyed that entirely.), but I remember feeling like the experience was exactly what you'd hope for, given the setting.

The next morning, before our "authentic" farm breakfast, we got to talking. Apparently everyone had problems sleeping due to heat issues in their rooms. Lucky for me and my wife, that we had our own heater in the guest house, because we slept great. The breakfast was incredible (and proved to be a recurring theme everywhere we went). Bacon (resembled ham), eggs, sausage, fruit, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, oatmeal, and scones with locally made (in the farmhouse's case, home made) jam. Once food was on the table there was very little conversation, but instead the clanging of silverware on ceramic, and the occasional "Can you pass..?".

The trade-off of being the last farmhouse on the list, causing shorter evenings, was longer mornings. We all got on the bus, refreshed and ready to head out to the town of Waterford where the magic of crystal making happens.

Screenshot of the video.
VIDEO: 25.0 MB - 1:29

Our bus driver Jim explains what we're doing for the day, as I record what it's like driving through town,
while sitting in the front seat for the only time during the tour proper.

Kilkenny castle, interior grounds.
Waterford crystal being made.
Parked cars and cramped houses line a street.
A little out of order from the story... this is Kilkenny Castle from inside the walls.
A union-looking gentleman crafts a vase-looking crystal.
Nothing really special... A common street in Waterford.

Our first stop was the Waterford plant, where they make crystal objects/vases/etc. The tour of the plant was run by the plant itself, but had a depressing tone from the very beginning. It started with a tour video/Waterford commercial, played on a projection screen, in a dusty, carpet-walled room. The video had obviously been produced in the late 80's/early 90's, when times were much better for the company. And I think the blue bulb was dead on the projector, and one of the speakers was blown. Once the video stopped, the lights came on and we were lead through the facility where we saw section after section of the beginning-to-end of crystal making. It was awesome seeing the process - the people who worked there were very experienced at what they did. Where the depressing part came in, is that there were only a handful of workers in a given area. Tables set up end to end, uniform, with equipment, in a 5,000 sq. ft. room, with only four or five people sitting at them, spread far out, each working alone. We walked through a hallway, where intricate trophies for worldwide events were on display... the workmanship absolutely incredible (and these were the flawed ones that didn't make it, chalked up to practice makes perfect). At the end, we had the pleasure of perusing the very expensive Waterford gift shop, where it was hard to justify purchasing any of the items, despite the obvious cry for help the company extended to us by walking us through their facility.

After the strange Waterford Crystal tour experience, we were dropped off on a street curb in downtown Waterford and told to meet back there in (?) hours.

Ugly building.
The courtyard in downtown Waterford.
The front of Supermac's, in Waterford.
An unfortunately common sight. Old building, boarded up, and graffiti'd. At least it's not gang-related graffiti.
The central market courtyard, with a water fountain that resembles a conehead with a very runny nose.
Ireland's version of McDonald's. We ate there. Tasted like McDonald's, but with slightly less grease (and flavor).

Walking around was kind of a mixture of looking for something to see, and looking for something to do. There were plenty of shops, but we weren't interested in shopping. There were plenty of restaurants, but once I saw SuperMac's, I had to try it. As I mentioned in my caption, it wasn't as good as McDonald's, but it was probably a lot healthier. Their selling point is that all the beef in their burgers comes from Irish cows; I doubt McDonald's could make such a claim. At some point we walked into a church, that was open to the public. It was very quiet, beautiful inside... I tried getting some good pictures but without using flash, and without a tripod, it was impossible.

When we met back on the street corner we were greeted by a paid local (he may have been a friend of our bus driver), who gave us his version of the history/historic sites that I've now forgotten. I do remember, at one point I got to be a prop in a play that he put on, where I "played" the role of Strongbow, and my wife the unfaithful queen who I died for. I don't remember much about it, except that it became my nickname for the day.

Our time at Waterford concluded shortly thereafter, and we hopped on the bus (Gus), and went to some historic rural area, Brod Tullaroan, where the sport of hurling was invented (or, where the best hurling player was born... I can't remember).

Screenshot of the video.
VIDEO: 19.5 MB - 1:09

A guide with a funny voice talks a little bit about hurling, with some demonstration.

After the hurling instruction/demonstration, we went inside the historic home of a big-name hurling player, looked around, and then sat on some benches in the basement for entertainment. While watching two men (no pictures, please) playing guitars and telling stories, we were served dinner there, along with Irish coffee. After that, it was an hour or so drive back to the farmhouse where we all immediately went to bed.

The next day would start early, and we'd be off to the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove), with some stops along the way.

Brod Tullaroan house.
It's a big, old castle, off in the distance.
A street in Cobh.
The thatched (tatched) roof home of the aforementioned hurling star, turned museum.
An old castle (Cashel) off in the distance, under renovation. Otherwise, it would have been part of our tour.
A street in Cobh, one of the most picturesque towns I've had the privilege of seeing.

That morning, as we left the farmhouse for the last time, I was talking to one of our tourmates, as I was holding my camera. I told him that I was trying to get a picture of the farmhouse, but was frustrated because people kept walking out the door as I was trying to take a picture of it. He then said to me something that I've carried with me to this day... "Taking pictures of things is good... but what is important, is taking pictures of the people who are with you, because it's them that make your experience unique." (or something like that.) Unfortunately, it didn't sink in immediately. Looking through all the pictures I took, I regret not taking pictures of those people. I do have some incidental pictures of them, but all of them are when they aren't looking. Not that I'd post their faces for the world to see, but I think it would be great to see them today as I saw them then.

On to Cobh we went. As soon as we got off the bus, we were met by a tour guide who was telling us about the Titanic. Apparently this was the last place the famous boat docked, before it sunk, and an entrepreneur built a restaurant there in its honor. It was about then that I stopped listening to the guide, and looked around in awe at the beauty of the town. I simply could not stay with the group, as I walked around, camera in-hand, looking for good angles to capture what I saw. Everything looked so new. Bright. Happy. I would have liked to spend more time in Cobh, taking pictures, but I think I was the only one in the group doing this.

After Cobh, we went to Blarney. This part of the trip, I don't have a single dadgum picture of... I don't remember why not. My wife and I did not walk to kiss the Blarney stone, thanks to warnings of our driver, saying that the locals pee on it. Instead we had lunch and went into the shops, actually stimulating the tourist industry of Ireland.

We left Blarney to arrive late in the evening, in Killarney. The hotel, Killarney Avenue, was very nice - the best one we stayed at throughout the trip. Beautiful dining area, nice rooms (with coffee!), and the staff was also incredibly friendly. This memory/impression I have could be through rose colored glasses though, due to the surprise you'll read about later. I can't remember what we did that night - I think dinner was on our own, but I don't remember what we ate or where, or who we ate with. The next morning we were to go to a mansion, Muckross House, and then off to the Ring of Kerry to ride around in the bus, often in the rain, stopping occasionally for pictures and lunch.

Cobh from the dock.
A rainbow landing at the end of a path, near Muckross House.
Muckross Lake.
Cobh from the perspective of the ocean. Handily the most stunning photo of a town I've ever taken.
This one taken in the back yard of the Muckross House. The timing of the sun on the lawn, gray skies, and the rainbow lining up with the walk, come together to make this one of the luckiest pictures I've taken.
This scene, Muckross Lake, was on the path to the mansion of a similar name, where we rode on a horse-drawn carriage.

The next morning, as mentioned before, we headed out to the mansion. There was an opportunity to take a horse drawn carriage there, so we did, and our driver had a remarkable resemblance to Popeye. Four others in our group, he flirted with all the women, asking each one what their name was, and then saying that was his favorite name. He gave some tour-ish facts along the way, but I couldn't understand 20% of the words, due to a very charming accent. We got to the mansion, tipped him as we hopped off, and started the tour.

As seems to be par for the course, I don't remember much about the mansion. It had some really beautiful rooms, and lots of history, but no one lives in it now, and it sits as a well maintained and preserved historic attraction run by the Irish government.

We all made it back, to wait to board the bus to head out to the Ring of Kerry. This was to be the biggest picture-taking part of the trip, so naturally I was excited. On the way there, we happened to slow down in front of Killorglin, where I got the picture of the King Puck statue (seen below) from inside the bus. There was a big story behind it, but what it results in today is a festival where they capture a wild goat in the mountains and hold a festival in its honor every year. Once into the Ring of Kerry, beautiful landscape passed us by, as we rode along the treacherous (for a tour bus) path. And I fell asleep. The whole bus fell asleep. We'd stop to take pictures, get back on the bus, and fall asleep. It was a long drive, man. Jim talked about some of the historic points of the Ring, but that additionally served as my Unisom. I do have a lot of pictures to show for the ride, all good, but none stunning.

A tree shaped like a V
King Puck statue, with the towna as a backdrop.
It's yellow plants around a river, with green background.
A strange tree, on the grounds of the Muckross House, that looks like it was struck by lightning in its youth, now held upright by a cable.
The statue of King Puck, in front of the town Killorglin. My best "from inside the bus" picture.
A scenic area we stopped at. The terrain is noticeably rougher.

Once we got back from the Ring of Kerry, there was some free time until dinner at the hotel, (Enter hotel name and town here). So we walked the streets of (town), and ultimately ended up in a pub for the first time (for definition's sake, by "pub" I mean "local bar" - that doesn't serve food). I opened the door (it pushed inwards - would fail an OSHA inspection) and as I turned to the side to let my wife in, I accidentally bumped into someone. I looked inside and the closet-like place was packed with silent faces, all pointed at us. I apologized to the guy I bumped into, suddenly worried if we didn't walk into the last door we ever would. Heartily (and Irishly), the guy said "Don't worry about it!", and people toward the back of the pub made room for us to sit down. It was very welcoming, and the patrons were eager to make our acquaintance, and even more so when they found out we were there for our honeymoon. One guy, who I could barely understand because of how drunk he was (it was already 4:00PM, after all), showed us pictures of his wedding that he had in Rome, less than two weeks ago. Another guy showed us a trick where you can cut open a tea bag, empty it, stand it up as a tube, and when lit on fire will launch itself like a rocket. There was a story that went along with the trick, but I don't remember it. I had two or three pints of Guinness, and it was here that it tasted exactly as described by those that have been to Ireland before me. Incredibly robust flavorful perfection. Our visit to this hole-in-the-wall pub was the highlight of the entire trip.

After a solid three hours of drinking and laughing, it was time to get back to the hotel for dinner. When we got to our room, we were greeted with a surprise bottle of champagne and note: "Congratulations on the behalf of the hotel on your wedding.", likely with the encouragement of our bus driver (they couldn't have known otherwise). To my knowledge, we were the only ones that got this (though, there were couples celebrating their 50th and 60th anniversaries, and it would not surprise me if they got the same treatment or better). I don't remember much about the dinner that took place at the hotel, which means it must have been good (or maybe that's the Guinness talking).

The next day: Cliffs of Moher, and Galway.

Lots of landscape, little ring fort.
Killarney courtyard.
Cliffs of Moher.
A huge landscape, with a small, stout, ancient ring fort visible.
Our final morning in Killarney - what the town looks like from the hotel entrance, with bonus lens flare.
The well-known Cliffs of Moher. I love how this picture came out, but I'm sure many before me have done it better.

Here's where the trip becomes really fuzzy. Bear with me and my disjointed paragraphs. The visitor's center was pretty nice. Lunch was expensive, but worth paying to not starve. There were far less tourists than there were on my first trip to these, which added up to much cleaner pictures. The sky was incredible... There was lots of wind, as this picture of my wife can attest. We met a couple, from D.C., but I think I said something weird to them because they were obviously avoiding us in later encounters. They took our picture though, which was nice.

One thing I remember most, were the birds. Tons of seagulls(ish) all packed into the crevices of the cliffs, flying in flocks - white dots going from cliff to cliff. The silence of it all, combined with the constant noise of the water and wind; it was breathtaking. A scene that truly knows no time - that could have looked and sounded exactly the same a thousand years ago. We left there to go to Galway, with a couple of stops.

Cliffs of Moher.
A tourist path, at the Cliffs of Moher.
O'Brien's tower.
Hey, it's the Cliffs of Moher.
Hey, it's a tour path on the Cliffs of Moher tour site (okay... along with some incredible lighting, especially on the wet parts of the walk).
O'Brien's tower. I don't remember if I went in, but it looks great from here.
Limestone formation.
A small farm, in the middle of rocks.
A guy juggles torches in Galway.
Our tour bus, with some head-scratching limestone formations in the foreground. Called The Burren, because of the barren stone, but in the spring apparently gives life to an abundance of wildflowers.
A farm of sorts, somewhere on the way between the Cliffs and Galway.
Downtown Galway. If you look closely, it looks like someone's head is on fire.

Galway was undoubtedly the busiest place we went, outside of Dublin. Thanks to the lighting, I was able to capture some great pictures. There was a lot to see in the town, but we walked until we were away from the crowd, and followed the river, admiring the scenery, and I wondered what it would be like to grow up here and live here. It was strange, it felt like a poor area, but it was also incredibly beautiful.

We worked our way back to the hotel, in time for dinner. Unfortunately, I remember nothing about this hotel, or the dinner... and this time it wasn't due to Guinness. Looking at their website, it appears to be a very nice place to stay. I just remember nothing good or bad about it... Sadly, I suspect that this is about the point where I reached overstimulation, and stopped looking at things as experiences to remember, but instead looked at them as the final motions to go through, before going home. Regardless, Ireland is still there, and still affordable, so there's nothing stopping me but me, to get back whatever I think I've lost.

Screenshot of video.
VIDEO: 7.7 MB - 0:36

Enya, who was born in Ireland, is being played over the bus
stereoin this video. My camera can't help but dance - I had
no control over it.I was reminded of the South Park clip, where
the grandfather locked Billy/Stan in a closet, and forced him to listen to
this verysong, as a way of showing him how it felt to be very very old.

A canal behind downtown Galway.
A canal behind downtown Galway.
A hand crafted canal, cutting through a neighborhood behind downtown Galway.
The same canal, but from the other direction, and much further down. Graffiti mars the life saver housing.
Delicious Irish cows, with ears marked to guarantee our eating pleasure. Somewhere in the Aran Islands.

Because my wife is a culture freak, the Aran Islands were a necessity, and a huge reason why we picked the Irish Legends tour over the other, similar ones offered by CIE. There is where they make their own clothes, and remain self sustaining. The gift shops sold a lot of Chinese made goods, but they also featured small sections of expensive, locally made treasures.

The weather was very unpredictable. It would go from cold and windy (and dark), to warm and calm (and bright) in the space of a couple of minutes, and back again. With that backdrop, after lunch, we went on a small tour of the island, looking at cows, cemeteries, and the pinnacle of the tour: The 2000 year old (plus) Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa) fort.

This fort was good exercise in getting to. Lots of stairs to climb, lots of rocky paths to conquer. When we finally got to the top, it was incredible. The fort was built as a half-circle, against a cliff. That cliff? Very high. At the bottom of the cliff? Lots of large rocks and water. I don't think a camera is capable of capturing the depth of what it was we stood on, how high we were off the water. But I tried. I even attempted a video, and have kicked myself every time I think about how stupid I was in the way I went about recording it. More on (moron) that later.

While it was a lot to take in, there really wasn't much to look at. One angle from another looked the same... there was no way to get a better picture. This area wasn't nearly as photogenic as the Cliffs of Moher, but being there felt much more incredible. While the Cliffs of Moher felt like it was timeless, Dun Aengus felt like a place that time forgot - unwelcoming in a sense (my wife vehemently disagrees with me here) (likely because she didn't nearly fall off a cliff), due the very rough and colorless terrain, and the general lack of life around it.

Screenshot of video.
VIDEO: 15.4 MB - 0:57

Here it is. My moment of brilliance. I start recording and pan around the fort. I try to scan past peoples' faces because I assume no one likes being recorded, and then point the camera at the ground and start shuffling toward the edge to show how sudden the cliff drops down into water, far, far below. Hear the whimper at the 38 second mark? Yeah, that was when I removed my face from the LCD screen of my camera and saw where I was standing. Instead of being more than four feet from the edge, like I thought, I was really about a foot and a half from the edge. I was walking carefully but I still feel like an idiot for not paying attention to where I was walking. I keep imagining the scene, an idiot with a camera stuck to his face, silently falling off the cliff. How long would it take for anyone to notice? Is there any chance of survival? What would the video look like as the camera plummeted with me? Would all the great pictures I took during the trip be salvageable? I thank my lucky stars that that didn't happen every time I think about the event. Enjoy video otherwise. I almost died to record it.

Waves, cliffs, at Dun Aengus.
Entrance to Dun Aengus.
Cliffs, ocean, at Dun Aengus.
Here, a distant wave crashes into a crevice, and rockets over a hundred feet into the air.
The steep, rocky entrance to the fort, with no clear pathway.
It's hard to believe, looking at the picture, but this cliff is hundreds of feet high.

There were lots of things to explore... We found a house that burned down a very long time ago, and walked around seeing what was left of its still standing stone walls. I wondered if anyone was watching us (it was obviously private property), and how many other tourists in the past were as brave as we were to enter it. We walked along a shore that I'm certain is not duplicated anywhere in the world. There were incredible formations of clay, rock, and life. The clay parts were strange, because it was like walking on rubber. Jumping and stomping on the ground with both feet would cause a strange shockwave ripple three or four feet in radius, but the wavy formation of the (clay dunes?) remained intact, except a minimal difference where your shoes impacted the surface.

One of the more unique memories I have, is of a cat that had (to my speculation) been hit by a car, but was still functional, and happy to be alive. It had a huge scab on the side of its head, and a number of medium sized ones on the same side of its body. It sat on a waste-high stone wall as I moved toward it, and it looked like it wanted to be skittish, but decided to let me approach. At the lightest touch, the cat enthusiastically pushed against my hand, turning, purring. Of course, I nimbly avoided touching the plates of dried blood. A group of middle-school aged students were in the area, and they were all scared of the cat. Except for a single girl... I think she (and the rest of her class) were French. She wasn't as brazen as I was, but she was willing to touch the animal. My wife warned me of bacteria, etc., but I felt so bad for the cat because it was obviously in great pain... besides I wasn't touching the gushy parts. I did wash my hands afterwards as a precaution, and luckily, nearly three years later, I still haven't dropped dead from it, nor have my fingers fallen off.

We got back on the ferry to return to Galway for dinner and our final night in Ireland, outside of Dublin.

Rubber clay, Aran Island.
Rock, water, and some fungal grass weed plant stuff.
A guy mowing the lawn in a cemetary, at Clonmacnoise.
The wavy rubber-clay-stuff I talked about earlier.
Rock, water, and life living where you'd think it otherwise wouldn't be welcome.
Hey, there's one of those lawnmowers I mentioned in the beginning. Here, he is slaloming around the gravestones.

For our last day touring Ireland, we went to Clonmacnoise to tour a 6th century monastery. This thing was pretty cool, because there was an archway there, where you could whisper into one side, while someone listens to the other side. The sound traveled losslessly from one end to the other, along an inch wide stone-crafted half-pipe. The story behind it, is that it was used to make confessions. There was a museum along with lots of history about vikings pillaging the area over and over again, but I don't remember most of it.

We left there to go to Mullingar for lunch and chillin out. It was there that we bought a bottle of whiskey from a local market, with the brand of Dunphy's. And I took a picture of a flower.

We brought the whiskey home and made Irish coffees with it until it was gone, only to find that Dunphy's isn't sold here. Other Irish whiskeys haven't quite compared, but there's no way to know how the taste of Dunphy's is colored through long term memory.

Once we left the town, it was on to Dublin to check into the last hotel, and then to a tavern in Howth, on the northeast part of Dublin for our final dinner and song.

Lawn and church and sign at Mullingar.
The town of Mullingar. I only know this, because I took this picture with the sign of a map of Mullingar.

We arrived at the hotel (Carlton Hotel) and checked in. The decor was trendy and new. Our TV was a flat screen. The bathroom was large. This was unlike any Irish hotel we'd stayed at before...

It was a chain.

Obviously, we didn't go to Ireland to stay at chain hotels the whole time, but it was certainly nice to get back to a sense of what you're used to.

We went to Abbey Tavern in Howth, which I didn't get any pictures of. We ate dinner (I remember it being really good, but I don't remember what it was), and a guy played a guitar while singing at the end of the stone basement (like) dining room. The guy in our group who played and sang Johnny Cash at the farm house, convinced the guy with the guitar to hand it over. He played for us for a while (I don't remember what the guitar owner did at this point - his job was effectively taken away from him). I tried getting some pictures inside, but they all came out blurry and useless.

On the way back, our bus driver, Jim talked to us at length. He said that this was one of the best tour groups he'd ever had. "I bet you say that to all of your bus tourists.", the group responded in chaotic unison. And admitted that he does say that to all the groups, but this time he meant it. There was no drama. No arguments. Everyone was very polite. To top it off, the weather was great for 95% of the tour; he couldn't remember a tour that had as much great weather as we had.

The next morning was bittersweet. I was very ready to go home, but I also felt like I wasn't ready for the tour to end. After a solid breakfast buffet, we pulled our bags downstairs and checked out, as did some others in our group. The last hours were spent waiting on the shuttle to take us to the airport in groups depending on when our flights left, and making conversation in the otherwise quiet and empty (but trendy) lobby.


So, to review: This was an experience of a lifetime. I try to think of ways it could have been better, and I honestly think that for the amount of money we spent, it could not have been. If we were to go again, I would like to repeat about 75% of what we did on this trip... It kind of works out, because the Waterford crystal plant is now closed, so now the Irish Legends tour no longer stops in that town - that's 10% of the trip right there. I didn't drink nearly as much Guinness as I thought I would - by the time we got to our hotels after everything we did, the last thing I wanted to do was drink all night. I couldn't drink during the day, because then I'd be tortured on the 2 - 3 hour long bus drives needing to use the bathroom. I suppose this was a blessing in disguise though, because almost three years later I've been able to relay far more than I thought I'd be able to on this page about the trip. If you read everything, I certainly thank you for making it this far. If you skimmed everything (your scroll wheel definitely got its exercise for the week), and are just reading this last paragraph, you probably didn't miss much, though I tried to keep it marginally entertaining.


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