CIE tour company is great. I heartily recommend them. It’s a huge operation with many many tours to choose from
My tour took me around most of the country- missed only the top and Giants Causeway and the mid center. The tour bus holds 48; our tour was 13! We were the last of that particular tour for the year. And November is iffy for weather. Yet this was The Enchanted Journey!
What follows is a quick summary of the journey. Skip if too travelogue-y for you. But you will miss great photos.
October 31 arrival. The tour uses very nice hotels but they are located a distance from city center. On my own I would stay downtown. But who wants to pack twice? Not me. I cabbed it to the national archeological museum giving me from 4-5 to visit. Then wander the streets and end up at HRC for my pin.
Next day Sunday the tour officially commenced. On a bus for 48, truly with the luck of the Irish- only 13 people! A bus tour around Dublin to give us the highlights. No need for the hop on hop off bus. One stop was Glasnevin cemetery. Odd.
Monday an early departure up to the Ulster American Folk Park. Thomas Mellon of Mellon bank fame was born in this area and relatives donated money to create this park. You could see what life was like for the Irish and where he actually lived. And they created the America that he emigrated to. From the reproduction of the Irish socks, to the ship that carried you over and the welcoming American docks. It was a bit like Disneyland… Then reproductions of a variety of American houses that the immigrants lived in. So it was a display of two worlds and interesting to both Americans and Irish.
On to Donegal. The country side became sparser. Clearly hard to sustain agriculture. We also crossed the border into and then out of Northern Ireland. Except there was no border. All the border crossings are gone. All the towers and military bases gone. The Troubles over. I must read about that peace process. I found it interesting that our tour director always used the phrases: North of the country and South of the country. I am not sure why. He didn’t want to separate them? It is too touchy a political topic?
Donegal is a small town. Heck. See my early blog- they are all small towns! We visited the castle. I wrote an earlier blog on the Muddle Ages. I really meant Middle Ages. In Ireland. What I have figured out is that Irish castles do not look like British or French Middle Age castles. These are primarily square towers, usually crenelated. They don’t hold as much fascination for me. And there are the ruins of many Abbeys. The work of Cromwell who was British and strongly Protestant.
Two nights in Donegal- that’s the beauty of this particular tour- two nights in three cities. Not as much packing!
Tuesday – a drive up to Sleave League. An awesome sight that would have spectacularly awesome if it had been clearer. Our weather held- no rain- but low clouds obscured the view of the tops of the cliff. We took a mini bus to the top and had a local guide who showed us the EIRE marked in white stones. This was used by US and Canadian pilots crossing the Atlantic. In fact, this was a violation of the Geneva treaty- Ireland was neutral during the war. But thank you, Eire!
The afternoon included a demonstration of weaving at the Triona design Tweed company. If I ever buy tweed, it will be from them. The fabric is so lightweight and soft! I limited my purchase to a cap as my head was cold (consequence of short haircut).
Wednesday we set off for Galway. We stopped at a pottery factory – Beleek and again in the North of the country (Northern Ireland). I was surprised at how interesting these “factory” tours were turning out to be. We saw the artisans making items for QVC – apparently QVC buys these limited editions for sale only on QVC. The only item that interested me was the basket. Only because the making was fascinating. But too fragile and too expensive. I stuck with the photos.
A short stop at Yeats grave. Another gal and I confided that we both didn’t get poetry.
After Yeats we went on to the Museum of Country Life. A history of the land and the people and the famine. There was little about medieval life. A hard agricultural life to be sure.
Then into Galway to the best hotel: The Meyrick. I had a room that was 500 some sq feet. Yes I paced bit off. Larger than my apartment in Paris. And a walk through the -again- small town (and third largest in Ireland).
Thursday was a loop from Galway through Connemara to Kylemore Abbey, an 19th century castle. Reminded me of Downton… We drove through the Maam valley. I could live there. It was a beautiful and energetic place. Back through a land of lakes to Galway.
An early morning start on Friday to Killarney. We went along the Wild Atlantic way. But before we were really out in the country, we witnessed an accident. I mentioned this in another blog post, but here it is again… A sedan in front of us going our direction swerved to the right (remember, we drove on the left), hit the fence and ditch, turned over and then spun around on the roof until is stopped facing us. Fortunately, we were far enough away that Paddy was able to stop safely. Before we could get out, we saw a hand reach out the driver’s side and slowly pull herself out. A young woman emerged – and flexible enough that I don’t think she had immediate back problems. An apple half eaten rolled across the highway. She was an American from Michigan but living in Iceland here by herself on her second day. And the car was totaled. Other locals stopped so after Paddy called the Garda, we took off. All the Americans puzzled that we could leave the scene… But what was really strange was that the Garda called Paddy about 2 hours later: they couldn’t find the car!
The Wild Atlantic Way is a tourist drive that is spectacularly beautiful. The road led us to the Cliffs of Moher. The photos don’t do it justice – bad time of day for light. But don’t miss it if you go.
And the last stop was the Flying Plane museum. A reproduction of the Pan Am Clipper than landed in the bay. With movies about the search for ways to make the flight affordable – meaning less gas. The Brits came up with this idea. And years later the US adopted it.
It’s also the birthplace of the Irish Coffee. No, for you San Franciscans, that was not the Buena Vista (BV) by the Bay. Same guy. He moved. But he did create it in Ireland. (You pour the cream in over the back of a spoon.) The plane too was more interesting than I expected. Wow was flight different back then!
Saturday was supposed to be a drive around the Ring of Kerry. But the farmer with the sheep dog show was off to his daughter’s wedding. (Really! Huh!) So Paddy offered us an option of another sheep dog but on the Dingle Peninsula. We took that.
The trip was nearing the end. A drive back to Dublin through the rain. Yup. Rain. Really the first day of any significant rain. The weather on the trip was amazing. Truly it was the Enchanted Journey.
Sunday brought us to the Blarney Castle. Nope. I didn’t. Kiss it. You have to climb the steps – which I could have done – I climb at least 3 floors every day. But uneven stone. And wet. I wasn’t going to tempt fate. Last thing I needed was to slip and fall. And I figure I have a pretty good gift of gab already…
The final event was a great Irish meal – yes, corned beef and cabbage – and show with dance, song and comedy. Out at the Abbey Pub quite a distance from Dublin. But worth it. Especially as Paddy drove. To get us into the mood, he sang Molly Malone on the way. After we applauded, he said he was so glad we enjoyed it. And he added that he loved to sing with his eyes closed. Hahahaha.
Monday I slept in. It was a demanding trip. By bus sure – but somehow I walked 6-7 miles a day! Yikes. And up early for the bus every day. So I lounged. Then a city bus to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Beautiful. Some of you know I am a some-time-calligrapher. So to see these intricate drawings and designs – wonderful. And followed by mundane shopping! Found a blazer and walking shoes. Score. And I was able to pack it all in the suitcase for the early morning flight.
Home and all was well.
Yes. I am returning to Ireland!