’13 Aug: Republic of Ireland

When I told Kaitlin I was going to Ireland her eyes widened and brightly she exclaimed ‘Leprechauns!’.

Starting today the bus…

Starting today the bus drivers are on strike! Oh this is NOT good for me. Even the HOHO tour buses aren’t running and the rail workers are considering joining the strike.

NOT good for me! No sign of it ending any time soon either.

(internet pix)

After such a long…

After such a long travel day I walked just a bit around my hotel before settling in for the night. Based on the pubs-per-block, I’m quite sure it’s true, here any time is Guinness Time.

…she belongs to Saint…

…she belongs to Saint Saviour’s, the Dominican Priory. In the distance you can see the windows of the apse of the church. The long history of the Dominicans in Dublin begins in 1224 and I’m sure I’ll be learning more about them in the days to come.

In the distance at…

August 5

In the distance at the north end of O’Connell Street is the great Spire of Dublin, also called the Monument of Light and the world’s tallest sculpture. It stands in the place where Nelson’s Pillar stood, and destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1966.

O’Connell has been the grand thoroughfare through Dublin since the 1700s, “Lined with many handsome buildings, O’Connell Street is the most monumental of Dublin’s commercial streets, having been largely rebuilt in the early 20th century following extensive destruction in the struggle for Irish independence and subsequent civil war.”

Refurbished lastly in the early 2000s with the installation of the Spire, reconfiguring of the traffic lanes, regulations regarding signage, etc., it’s looking pretty good right now.

So when they wanted…

So when they wanted to put in a Starbucks (free Internet! free Toilet!) they reused an existing, and very lovely building.

I did pass in today’s 6-7 miles of walking around, dozens of Burger Kings and McDonalds, a few Subways, and not much else in the way of US fast food.

This is a side…

This is a side street off the trendy shopping district in Grafton.

Today is a Bank Holiday Monday so most of the shops were closed and with the transit strike, I don’t know what it would look like on a normal Monday. I will say it was easy walking around today and much to my taste since I don’t go in the shops anyway.

1hr walking tour…

August 6

I decided late the night before that since jetlag was waking me up at 4am I might as well walk down to where the tours depart and see what I could get.

Let’s go on a TOUR! Here’s the itinerary from celtictours.ie and their Boyne Valley trip:

1) Stand where the High Kings of Ireland were inaugurated at the sacred site of The Hill Of Tara which means, ‘Sanctuary Of The Kings’ the spiritual center of The Boyne Valley.
2) Visit the Loughcrew Passage Tomb and the Family Church of Sait Oliver Plunkett.
3) Walk through the Anglo-Norman Trim Castle and one of the locations for the film Braveheart.
4) See the ruins of the (spooky) Jumping Church of Kildemock.
5) Stop at Monasterboice where Ireland’s oldest Celtic High Crosses and 2nd tallest Round Tower stand.
6) A photo stop at the home of The Earl Of Mount Charles, ‘Slane Castle’ and pass through the village of Slane and the houses of the four sisters.
7) 1hr walking tour of the historical town of Drogheda and some free time to explore the shops and stalls.

It was perfect! …

It was perfect! Meet our driver and guide Connor.

All the bits in “s are from their brochure. If I try to write it all ‘from scratch’ I’ll never get out of this hotel!

“We will arrive at…

“We will arrive at the Hill Of Tara, the seat of the High Kings – the most sacred site in ancient Ireland. It is said that a quarter of Ireland’s landscape can be seen from this point. Tara gets its name from ‘Teamhair na Ri’ which means ‘Sanctuary of the Kings’ and is the traditional inauguration site of the ancient High Kings of Ireland.

“Tara was at the…

“Tara was at the height of its importance around 600BC and was the royal centre of Mide, meaning ‘The Middle Kingdom’ once the 5th province of Ireland. There is a standing stone called ‘Lia Fail’ located at the centre of a circular mound know as The Royal Seat.

“According to tradition when a true Irish King placed his foot on the Lia Fail, it cried out to announce his rightful reign – so you can have a go while you’re there. We might have the true King of Ireland in our midst!”

“We arrive at the…

“We arrive at the sacred site of ‘Loughcrew’ with a concentration of around 30 passage tombs. This is one of the most important prehistoric cemeteries in Ireland and many agree that it is better than that of the famous Newgrange.

“You’ll walk to the top of the hill where one of the best preserved and most accessible tombs on the site can be seen.”

“Once we open the…

“Once we open the iron gate you’ll enter the tomb with a flash lamp to find along the walls and the ceiling Celtic designs carved into the rock over 5000 years ago, still perfectly visible.

“This central tomb is said to be the burial place of the legendary High King of Ireland Ollamh Fodhla.You will stand on this sacred high ground and see for miles and imagine the kind of ceremony that took place as this great man was laid to rest.”

“Here you will walk…

“Here you will walk through this fabulous stronghold that is still standing after 800 years. It was at this castle where some of the best fight scenes in the film ‘Braveheart’ were shot. Trim castle is the most important and best preserved Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland situated on the edge of Trim town itself.

“Trim castle was the…

“Trim castle was the stronghold of Hugh de Lacy who was granted the Kingdom of Meath by King Henry II shortly after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland, in 1172.

“Over the centuries the castle was used for many different purposes to suit the changing political climate but still today much of its walls and battlements remain.”

“Just outside Ardee we…

“Just outside Ardee we stop at ‘The Jumping Church’. This church has been the source of fascination for visitors and locals alike. The popular folklore says that the gable wall of the church jumped 3 feet moving an excommunicated occupant of a grave outside the walls of the church ‚ whatever the real story is, it makes for a fascinating stop.”

(internet pic)

“Our next stop is…

“Our next stop is at the religious site at Monasterboice. The High Cross of Monisterboise is the finest in Ireland and is highly regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of Irish religious art.

“This religious site has…

“This religious site has been there since 520AD founded by Saint Buite. Its name derives from the Irish ‘Mainistir Bhuithe’ meaning ‘the monastery of Buite’.

“The monastery holds the 2nd highest round tower in Ireland which was burned in 1097 destroying its library and other treasures but still remains intact apart from its head cap. You will also find the Celtic High Cross of Muiredach from the early ninth century and probably the finest of its type in the world.”

At the road just…

At the road just beside the monastery is this cottage home of the local crazy cat lady. Truly, there were so many cats about the whole tour group couldn’t count them and they were so skittish I couldn’t even catch a shot.

“You will visit Drogheda,…

“You will visit Drogheda, an important Anglo-Norman settlement and was one of the largest walled towns in Medieval Ireland. The town walls held strong twice from attack. Firstly from Edward Bruce in 1317 and again by Phelim O’Neill in 1642. However the walls were breached in 1649 by Cromwell and sacked the town massacring 3500 people inside.”

My favorite church yet,…

My favorite church yet, St Peter’s in Drogheda. Oh my goodness they have a dried out old head in the glass case on top of that pillar. I have a pretty good picture of the head too, but I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.

It’s the head of St Oliver Plunkett. He died a bloody martyr’s death in 1681 at the hands of the English after, by order of the king, refusing to stop ministering to his flock in Ireland.

On the walk back,…

On the walk back, 1.1 miles from the hotel, 2.2 miles round trip added to the miles of walking on the tour .. oh look, A Duck Bus.

I am now going to put my feet up for 18 hours!

The lion in the…

August 7

The lion in the door of the Dublin City Museum around the corner from my hotel, The Maldron in Parnell Square.

The Maldron in Parnell Square is a recommendable property if you are ok with walking. They are at the very top edge of where you are going to want to be. It’s about a mile to the center of the center. It’s clean, reasonably priced considering, the rooms are nice, service is professional, and when I asked to change for a better view they accommodated me as soon as they could.

My plan for today…

My plan for today was to buy my onward train ticket, eat a restaurant meal of dishes I’d not had before, and see a few sights. Done done and done.

This is a James Joyce statue nicknamed ‘A Pr*ck with a Stick’. This guy was moving around the base getting in everyone’s picture!

That white swoopy structure…

That white swoopy structure is a bridge. It was controversial of course. They made a super-modern suspension bridge but they made it look like a classic Irish harp.

Behind the bridge are two mobile cities filling the view.

The glass building is the new convention center.

A story from Connor, yesterday’s tour guide: The unfinished building is the ‘memorial’ to the go-go Celtic Tiger economic boom and subsequent bust (1995-2000). This building was supposed to be the new headquarters of the too-big-to-fail financing company whose failure brought down the economy.

Under those trees in…

Under those trees in the mid-right is the Famine Memorial. It’s a line up of statues, life sized, of desperate and emaciated people. I’m leaving out a picture.

The dome crowns the 1791 Customs House.

My restaurant meal of…

My restaurant meal of dishes I’d never had before. This is Quay’s Irish Restaurant where I enjoyed Boxty Cake and Guinness Stew. YUM!

Boxty Cake is basically mashed potatoes coated and pan fried. The internet talks about dozens of versions. It was delicious.

Guinness Stew is meat and vegetables cooked long and slow with Guinness as the liquid and it was rich and delicious too.

I was going to…

I was going to do the whole Ulysses walk around Dublin but I probably won’t since tomorrow is my last day and I’m wanting to check out the coast.

What this says: ‘As he set foot on O’Connell bridge a puffball of smoke plumed up the parapet. p.125)

What I usually eat…

August 8

What I usually eat On The Road. I just stop and buy some small thing – an apple or a pear or grapes, a tomato or a bell pepper, yogurt, cottage cheese, a roll or a pastry, small boxes of local take-away delights.

Anything really that looks pretty good and that I can eat walking along or on a park bench. My favorite is to buy it off a cart on the street – local specialties, or a nice hot dog. I haven’t found a single cart here.

I eat in restaurants as an ‘event’.

I went to the…

I went to the DART station, the tram system to travel out to Howth (pronounced hoe-th) to look around the coast line.

Notice the words under ‘Warning’. Those are Irish words and most of the public signs are listed in English and Irish. There has been a big push for some time to get people here to learn and speak Irish but according to Connor it isn’t really sticking as a first-language choice although Irish language is a required course in school.

The little fishing village…

The little fishing village here was made up of a couple of streets of fish shops and places to eat fish. People travel the 30 minutes out from Dublin just to shop here and stay for lunch.

This reminds me that it seems the people in and around Dublin are for the most part notably fit and trim.

Enjoying a break….

Enjoying a break.

The smokers have to do their thing outside but there are so many of them around doorways and on the street that you still get more than your daily dose just leaving your room. It wasn’t to the scale of Vienna though, and Belfast turned out to be much worse too.

Here’s the other thing…

Here’s the other thing I do about food. I settle myself in a place like this. You have to choose carefully. Crowds of young people huddled together loud and drunk is not the place. It’s timing as much as anything.

I had a fun chat with these two guys, had a beer and a bowl of fish soup, and I was happy.

Trinity College. I…

Trinity College. I was too late to make it in to see the Book of Kells.

Other things I missed:

1) The Guinness Factory Tour but I made up for it by enjoying plenty of Guinness.

2) Going to any museum, garden, or park except the city art museum next door to my hotel.

3) Dublin Castle. I walked by on the street, told myself to come back, and didn’t

Today I traveled by…

August 9

Today I traveled by train from Dublin to Killarney. The trip took three hours and fifteen minutes and included one change of train. The journey was smooth and easy, and the trains were clean and modern.

One interesting note, there were about 10 college aged guys in my compartment whooping it up while they tossed back large cans of beer. Many many many large cans each. It was insane how much beer those guys could drink.

Then when it was time to get off one of those very guys ever so politely took my bag from the overhead and carried it down the crowded aisle, down the steep stairs and offered me his arm as I stepped off. Just goes to show .. something.

Ever since Connor (remember…

Ever since Connor (remember him – the guide in Dublin) laughed at American St Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage and said the only correct way to eat that meal was a dish here they call ‘bacon and cabbage’ I’ve had my eye out for ‘bacon and cabbage’.

Here it is, and it was delicious. Not that I would give up corned beef and cabbage!

I picked up a…

August 10

I picked up a flyer for this walk and thought it would be a great way to get an introduction to the highlight of Killarney, the Killarney National Park, the first National Park established in Ireland.

The flyer said ‘meet at the end of New Street, Killarney, opposite the Cathedral, next to the funeral home.’

I was the only…

I was the only tourist to show up and so got a delightful private guide, James, all to myself. Our walk turned out running from 11 through lunch and into the late afternoon and at the end my pedometer read 25,688.

It was FAB!

The magic tree and…

The magic tree and a pilgrimage site for the faithful.

The story goes that a monk from the nearby monastery knelt under this tree to pray and rest and 200 years later he returned to the monastery. There is a rock under the tree with the monk’s deep knee prints.

People leave bits of themselves and basically make a wish. I had one of my allergy pills with me which I tucked snug into the bark of the tree and wished for relief.

I’m perfectly fine now, it’s for later. I’ll let you know how it works out.

“Killarney National Park encompasses…

“Killarney National Park encompasses three large lakes (Lough Leane or Lake of Learning, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake), whole mountain ranges, and Ireland’s tallest peak in the Macgillucuddy Reeks. The Park features an ancient monastery, Europe’s finest relict yew forest, Ireland’s largest oak woods, and the spectacular Muckross House.”

Ross Castle, built by…

Ross Castle, built by O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century, sits on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake and was the last stronghold in Munster to hold out against Cromwell LP:”thanks partly to its cunning spiral staircase, every step of which is a different height in order to break an attacker’s stride.”

It was eventually taken by General Ludlow in 1652.

We stopped off at…

We stopped off at the Cathedral for a bathroom break and speaking of the Manchester Martyrs, one of the innumerable stories of English oppression, this one occurring in 1867.

The local Bishop who took the side of the British, Bishop Moriarty of Kerry declared: “when we look down into the fathomless depth of this infamy of the heads of the Fenian conspiracy, we must acknowledge that eternity is not long enough, nor hell hot enough to punish such miscreants”.

That line took my fancy.

It was especially cool…

It was especially cool to find so many different kinds of plants and trees (are trees plants?) flourishing throughout the park.

They are trying to bring the open land to all native flora. They also have an arboretum of trees from around the world. James called it ‘our own United Nations’.

I took a bus…

August 11

I took a bus tour today to the Dingle Peninsula and it was a real treat. This is a scene just out of town of the National Park from yesterday.

Our first stop…

There were no surfers…

There were no surfers though, at least none that I could spot. I did ask a lifeguard what the temperature was and he said 14 .. that’s 57, and that’s cold, but not that cold.

A shot of Inch…

A shot of Inch Beach from out the bus window. Maybe they mean the surf is an inch high?

A lot of these pictures are from a bouncing, rocking bus and they didn’t all catch focus but sometimes the bus just can’t stop at the most scenic spots since the roads are so narrow and there aren’t turn-outs.

These two lanes are…

These two lanes are a highway compared to the one lane-ers on the mountain roads.

There were many plants in full bloom but I couldn’t get them in one shot. There were these, the red ones, and there were the yellow ones, and blue ones.

This is the town…

This is the town of Dingle most well known for Fungie the Bottlenosed Dolphin who hangs around in the harbor entertaining the tourists, for their fishing fleet, and that the residents can speak native Irish.

Puck Fair! I’ve…

August 12

Puck Fair! I’ve been calling it the Goat King Festival but finally I got around to changing to Puck Fair.

When I chose these days to be in Killarney little did I know that just down the road a piece in Killorglin would be one of the wonders of Irish life .. the crowning of The Goat King. And as they like to repeat, he rules for three days and he IS The Only King in Ireland.

And I was thinking,…

And I was thinking, what?

There were many blocks like this full of people drinking beer. Every shop turns into a beer hall for Puck Fair. Benches and tables fill the alleyways.

They have a carnival…

They have a carnival section, a flea market, some fortune tellers, tons of musical entertainment, and food stalls that were all hot dogs, burgers, and fries with various sauces.

It goes on for three days. The bars have to make ‘last call’ at 3am, everybody has to be out by 4am, and they reopen at 6am.

On the first day there’s a horse fair, on the second day there’s a cattle fair, on the last day at midnight they have fireworks.

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