Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mystery Ride

Last Sunday Gary and I went on our HOG Chapter's mystery ride. This is the ride that we were supposed to do on the 20th, but it was raining too hard that day and not enough people to participate.

Sunday morning was beautiful. It was very windy earlier in the morning, but by the time we left Hardin to get to the dealership by 9:00, it was nice. At bit on the cool side, but with the sun shining it would warm up.

We arrived at the dealership with plenty of time. We waited around a bit for more people to arrive, there were about 20 bikes in all, plenty to do the mystery ride.

We all gathered around to get our instructions. The organizer of this ride first talked about how this guy in Texas is an iron butt rider and he rode around Texas and took photos of all the county courthourses in Texas, then he made his project bigger into the courhouses in the United States.

That was our mystery ride. We were divided into two teams, your team had to go out and take as many photos of county courthouses as you could in the time allowed. We all had to be back in Billings at the meeting place by 5:00 pm.

Our route took us to Hardin, Big Horn County and Broadus, Powder River County. If we had the time, we were to hit Baker, Fallon County. Away we went, made it to Hardin. I asked Gary if he would have a hard time finding the courthouse here. Ha Ha Ha was the response I got back. We got our photo of the courthouse and then made our way to Broadus.

Broadus is approximately 120 miles from Hardin, so we gassed up in Crow. By this time the wind was starting to pick up but it wasn't too bad. Let me back up, it was around 9:30 by the time we left Billings to head to Hardin. We got into Hardin around 10:30 due to road construction.

We made it to Broadus at 12:10 pm. Took us a while because again of road construction and traffic. The semi traffic was pretty heavy on this day and we couldn't get around like we wanted. Found the courhouse in Broadus pretty easy and got our photo. Took a very short break to stretch our legs and also to look at the map and decided if we have enough time to make it to Baker. Unfortunately we didn't. You can't get to Baker from Broadus, you have to back track and make your way to Miles City, which was 80 miles and then Baker is 90 miles from Miles City. Keep in mind that Miles City is about 150 from Billings.

We decided to go to Miles City and eat lunch as we were both hungry at this time. We did go on a highway that neither one of us had been on. Needless to say this was a horrible time to head north on Highway 59. The wind was blowing very hard and for us it was a head wind. Now I know how a ball feels when a cat is playing with it. We were batted around like a little toy. Some of the gusts came up and almost blew us off the road, that is how strong the wind was. It was not fun to say the least. The wind gets underneath my helmet and it feels like it will tear off my head. We were so glad to get into Miles City just to get out of the wind for a bit.

Ate lunch and then we made our way back to Billings. It was about 2:30 when we left Miles City. The wind was blowing here but not as bad as it was earlier. This time we had the cross wind, but we got out of it when we reached Hysham.

We did arrive in Billings on time and reported in. Unfortunately we didn't have time to make Baker. Our team hit 21 courthouses off the list of 27. We didn't win, the other team had 23 courthouses. One of our team members didn't make it back to the meeting point and nobody knew where he went or if he even went on the ride to take his photos. He could have been the winning one.

Anyway we had a good time and we got a meal out of the deal. We all met up at a sports bar that served pizza. It was ok. The winning team all got beer glasses and the losing team all got these huge coffee mugs. The mugs and glasses have the HOG emblem on them. They are very nice.

Anyway this ride has given us an idea on our own to hit all 56 counties in the state. We already have two down. This will take us some time, but it will be fun to do. I was also able to highlight some more Montana highways on this trip. That is another goal we have on the bike, to travel on all the highways in Montana. Paved ones of course. We have Eastern Montana pretty much covered.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Homeward Bound

As the saying goes, All Good Things Must Come To An End. Before we knew it, it was time to go home. The days just flew by so fast on our trip. We sure enjoyed it and I would most definately go back to Ireland again, but not anytime soon. There was so much to see that you could spend a week in Dublin alone. We just didn't have time and being on foot didn't help. I'm sure once we figured out how the public bus system worked, we could have seen more stuff. Oh well, have to leave something for another trip back.

Our tour guide had arranged for a quick bite of breakfast at the hotel before we left. The hotel restaurant didn't open until 8:00 am on the weekends. We received a piece of fruit, a scone, a hard roll and a box of orange juice. In our rooms we were able to make hot tea and coffee.

We signed up for the 6:45 am shuttle to the airport. Our flight didn't leave until 11:30 am, but all the instructions said to be at the airport three hours before your flight. By getting on the 6:45 shuttle we arrived at the airport at 7:30. Taking the one at 8:45 would have arrived at 9:30, that didn't give us much time to go through all the security and do the paperwork for customs.

It turned out to be a good thing that we got to the airport very early. It took us time to get to the Delta ticket counter and there was a line. Dublin is a huge airport and at first we had a hard time finding the ticket counters. Once we got through that security and received our customs papers we then had to go through security again. Again Mom didn't take her shoes off, of course this time she was told that she would be ok, once the lady took a look at what kind of shoes she had on. Again she was randomly chosen to be scanned. Jen and I were giving her a bad time. All you can do is laugh.

We made it through this security and then found the gate where we needed to go. We had time to get a cup of coffee and take our time filling out our paperwork. This is the stuff where you have to claim what you bought over there and you need to remember the amounts. Jen got something to eat, as she didn't eat the snack at the hotel while Mom and I had a cup of coffee.

By this time the line at the gate had grown, so we got in line. This was the line for customs and we made it through without any problems. Down the stairs we went to the passport area. We were checked with all our paperwork again before we could make it through to the boarding gate. Once we got down to the boarding gate, it was pretty crowded. We did manage to find some chairs to sit on. We had about an hour wait before we could board. We were so glad that we took that early shuttle. The people who took the later shuttle did arrive in time to board, but I bet they had to really hurry. We were glad to see them and most of the people on our tour were on our flight to Atlanta.

We got to our seats and got buckled up and ready for takeoff. Listened to the instructions very intently. Again on this flight we had individual screens to watch movies and play games. We were also served a lunch on this flight. This time I chose the chicken, I learned my lessen with the pasta. Jen and Mom told me to pick chicken too. On the way home, I watched three movies and played some games. It really wasn't that bad. Just before we landed we were shown a ten minute video on how to get through customs and what we had to do. Mom and Jen both said that they didn't get this on their earlier travels. It was nice, at least I knew what to do. We claimed our luggage without any problems, however we were a little worried as ours was the last ones off the plane. I was sure worried how my whiskey was going to make it home in one piece with the way my luggage was manhandled. Anyway we claimed our luggage and had to have it rechecked and through more security.

Several international flights had landed in Atlanta at this time, so it was pretty busy. We got in line and they moved all of us people through pretty fast. This time we made it through the final security point with no problems. Mom was not randomly selected this time. Jen and I made sure she took off her shoes this time. Atlanta is such a huge airport that our next flight to Salt Lake was in terminal B and we were in terminal S. We took the cute little train to get to the next terminal, found our gate without any problems and had about a 45 minute wait to board.

Got on board for the flight to Salt Lake, on this flight we had individual tv screens, but had to pay to watch a movie and play the games. The only complimentary game was trivia and you played against your fellow passengers. It was fun, but by this time I was getting pretty tired. We landed in Salt Lake on time and this time we had about an hour wait. As we were waiting to deplane I could hear this woman say "Hi, Patty I didn't know you were in Atlanta". She is the superintendent of Wyola and she was on her way home from teaching a class in Atlanta over the weekend. I did get to talk to her for a bit. Also one of the flight attentants lives in Shephard. Mom was wearing her Hardin shirt.

We made it to our gate to board the plane to Billings. Jen was pretty hungry by now so she got a sub sandwich, she made it back just in time to board. She was able to take her sandwich on the plane, just as I was able to take my cup of Starbuck's coffee on the plane. I paid way too much money to have to throw it away. As long as we bought our stuff within the secure area we were fine.

We landed in Billings on time. By this time we are just exhausted. Keep in mind that Dublin is 7 hours ahead of Hardin time. We had been up since 6:00 am Dublin time and we landed in Billings at 11:00 pm Hardin time. We didn't get home until after midnight, so we figured we had been up 24 hours. I was so glad that I took an extra day off from work. Gary was there to pick up up on time. He was a bit worried because there was a lightening storm in Billings, that would explain the turbulence we experienced. We claimed our luggage and I was worried that the whiskey didn't make it. There was a wet spot on my suitcase, it didn't smell like whiskey. Once we got outside it was raining. What a relief. Once I got home, I check out my whiskey and it was all in one piece. The lid from the cardboard container had popped off.

It only took me about two days to get readjusted back to my normal time. I sure enjoyed the trip, but you can keep that jet lag. All in all we sure enjoyed ourselves and had a great time. We got everything that we were supposed to get and we feel that we got extra with the historical knowledge our tour guide had. He was just a wealth of information. Jen even had a good time, even though she was the youngest person on the trip. It helped that there were two others in her age group, even though they were older.

Last Day In Dublin

Saturday morning and this is our last full day in Dublin. How sad that our vacation has come to a fast end. I did look forward to going home.

Today is our bus tour of the city. We had a different tour guide this morning and it turned out to be Bernard's son James. He was just as informative as his father was with all the history. It was hard to take photos of the buildings and statues from the bus, they were either too big or we went by them too fast. Part of the time I was on the wrong side.

We did make stops at St. Patrick's Catherdral. Just got some photos outside we didn't get a chance to go inside. We also drove by Christ Church Catherdral. This is one of the oldest cathedrals in Ireland, no stopping here. If we wanted we can walk to these cathedrals later. Looking on the city map I had, these were a very far walk from our hotel.

Our tour took us to see the famous historical sites and we also went to Phoenix Park. We were able to get out to see the Papal Cross. This was the spot back in 1979 where Pope John Paul II had a mass service. This is also the place where our tour guide Bernard was found on his motorcycle. In fact everyone was taking pictures of Bernie on his motorcycly more than they were of the Papal Cross.

Our last tour this morning was at the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. This distillery was established in the 1780's. It was very interesting to find out how it is all made and the aging process to make this delicious whiskey. Before the tour started, we were seated into a small theater to watch a short video about Jameson's. Our tour guide told us that she needed eight volunteers for whiskey tasting. She needed 4 men and 4 women and the only other criteria was that you had to be over 18. I raised my hand up. Sure enough I was one of the lucky ones chosen.

We walked through the distillery and took a bunch of photos. At the end of the tour everyone was given a free shot of Jameson's whiskey. You had your choice of it straight or mixed. I had to sit at my table for the tasting. Mom and Jen picked out their drinks. I handed my camera over to Mom so that she could take photos. Proof that I was drinking whiskey.

I have to go back a bit here. Gary likes to drink Jack Daniels whiskey, which I don't particularly like, unless it's mixed with coke. My favorite whiskey is Crown Royal. Before this trip, Gary said all he wanted was for us to being back a bottle of Irish Whiskey and I told him that I will bring him home the good kind.

Now to the tasting. We all had a shot of the Jameson whiskey, Johnny Walker the Scotch whiskey and Jack Daniel's the American whiskey. Jameson's is distilled three times, Johnny Walker distilled twice and the Jack's distilled once. First we had to taste the Jameson's. Then we had to compare the Jameson's to the Jack's. Finally we compared the Jameson's to the Johnny Walker. Once we were done, our test at the end was to put out the glass that we liked the best, keeping in mind where we are. I really did like the Jameson's the best. It is real smooth, my second was the Jack's. I did not like the Johnny Walker at all. That is pretty strong. There was one guy who did like the scotch and another guy liked the Jack's. The rest of us picked the Jameson's. Once we finished with the tasting, we all got our complimentary shot of Jameson's. This time I mixed it with cranberry juice. Jen had hers with cranberry juice and she really liked it. I've never had whiskey with cranberry juice and I do have to admit that it is very nice.

All of us whiskey tasters got an official certificate stating that we are now Official Irish Whiskey Tasters. We were told that we can now put this prestigious award on our resumes. We finished our drinks and then went down to the store. I did buy Gary a bottle of the Jameson's whiskey and I also bought a small bag of the fudge made with Jameson's. Mom was talking to a worker while she was waiting for me and Jen. We found out that our tour guide was from Roundup Montana. What a small world. We knew that she was an American just by her talking, but we never did ask where she was from. First he asked where we were from, when we said Montana, that is when he told us she was from Roundup. He couldn't believe that we lived in a town so close. We never did see her again to talk to her. He did say that he would tell her we were from Montana.

I was feeling quite good by the time we left. Keep in mind that I drank four shots of whiskey in the morning. Not an usual occurance for me. I'm lucky to even drink one shot of whiskey. Once we finished our tour of Jameson's, back on the bus we went. We were then dropped off at Trinity College to wander around. We had a choice to get back on the bus at a certain time or we could just walk back to the hotel. Had to keep in mind that we had our farewell dinner for the night.

We decided to walk the streets to the little shops to get in some last souvenir buying. I still didn't buy anything for me. We walked alot going into the little shops, comparing prices. I bought me a linen scarf made in Ireland and also a necklace with a four leaf clover in it. More postcards. We didn't make it in time for the bus, which we figured we wouldn't anyway, so we walked back to the hotel.

I think I walked my Mom too much. Her legs were sure tired when we got done. Due to the weather she wasn't able to get out and get some walking in before our trip. In the last two days of our trip, we did some heavy duty walking.

We got ready for our farewell dinner. We were taken to a local pub called Nancy Hands. We had reserved seating on the second floor. We wanted to sit in the seats that looked like thrones. At our table was the group from Pennsylvania. We made good friends with this group as we sat with them quite a bit. One was Mom's seat partner on the bus the whole trip. They were a group of siblings, two sister and one brother and the two sisters brought their husbands. In fact they were sitting behind us on the flight from Atlanta to Dublin. We had a very delicious meal of Guiness stew. It was very tasty and made with Irish beef. For dessert we had baileys cheesecake. This was more a mousse than a cheesecake, but it was good.

I gave Mom my camera and had her take photos of all the tables. This was my last chance to get a photo of everyone. A few days back Mom's batteries on her digital camera died on her, so she fell back to her old and reliable film camera. She ended up taking 10 rolls of film on top of all her digital.

Once we made it back to our hotel, we all went to the bar and had one last drink together. Well not everyone went. We had drinks with the two gals from Texas, they were sure funny, the couple from British Columbia who missed the first three days due to plane troubles. The family from New Jersey and a woman from Austrailia. This was the first place where Jen was carded. She had ordered the pear cider. She wasn't the only one carded. The young couple from New Jersey were also carded. We just laughed. The woman from Austrailia told the bartender not to worry, Jen was younger than she looked. Then she realized that she said that wrong.

Once we all finished our drinks, back to the rooms we went. We had an early morning to catch our bus to the airport at 6:45 am. We also had to repack our suitcases. I had to pack the bottle of whiskey in my suitcase. Fortunately the bottle I bought came in a very sturdy can and I wrapped it in a towel I packed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sligo To Dublin

Now we are making our way back to Dublin for our last two days of the trip. We had to get up a bit earlier as the bus left about 15 minutes earlier than normal. Not too bad, we always had plenty of time.

Our first stop this morning was at Carrick-On-Shannon for our river cruise. We boarded the Moon River for an hour cruise on the River Shannon, which is the longest river in Europe. We got fresh baked scones with hot tea or coffee on this cruise. It was a very peaceful cruise and very enjoyable. A nice break from being on the bus. Relaxing. Fortunatley the weather was cooperating this morning. We even had some entertainment on the cruise.

Back on the bus to Dublin. In the morning the mist was out so we were able to stop to get some great photos of the mist in the valley with the hills poking out. Almost looks like a postcard. Very pretty.

As we made our way back to Dublin we stopped off at the Guiness Store House. This was the last of our optional tours. At the end of this tour we all got a free pint of guiness and we raised a toast to Arthur Guiness, celebrating 250 years.

The store house is huge and wide open, so on the tour we had to wear these earphones while the tour guide had his microphone. The building is built shaped as what a pint of guiness looks like, dark on the bottom while getting lighter on the top. We had to hang on to our tour tickets as that would allow us to get our free pint. We learned how Guiness was first made, which actually was a mistake and how it has grown to this day. It really was very informative. We even got to sample the freshest brew of Guiness. We decided to grab a light lunch in their cafeteria before heading up to the Gravity Bar for our pint. We wanted something to eat before drinking that dark stuff.

Up to the bar we went after lunch. This is also the tallest building in Dublin, 7 stories, where we got a great view of the skyline of Dublin. The bar was very crowded. We made our way up to the bar and our tour guide was our bartender. He gave Jen a half pint of the black stuff, while Mom and I had a pint. We raised our glasses and had a toast for a wonderful trip. We also toasted to Arthur.

Before we knew it it was time to get on our bus. We made our way back down to the street, found the bus. This time we made our way to Trinity College to the Book of Kells. These are books written by monks nearly 2000 years ago. It was in the 17th century that they were moved to Trinity College. We were not allowed to take photos of the books. There were four books in all and security was pretty tight. Once we finished looking at the Book of Kells, we then went into the Old Library. It's a very long room filled with thousands of very very olds books. There are busts of some scholars and even the oldes surviving harp in Ireland. It is rumored that this harp belonged to the High King Brian Boru. Again no photos allowed. Had to buy postcards.

We made is back to the bus to get to our hotel. We didn't sign up to go to the cabaret dinner, so we decided to walk to the Temple Bar area. Jen said that it was a long walk, but according to the map I got at the hotel, it didn't look that far. It was a very far walk. We must have walked 5 mile round trip.

We did make it to Temple Bar. There were many little streets that we not on the map. While on our trek to Temple Bar we walked through Grafton Street. This is where all the street performers were. In fact there were performers all over the streets. We stopped and watched them on our walk back. We finally made it to Temple Bar. This is an area with shops, pubs and restaurants. We did find the pub Temple Bar, but on a Friday night it was so crowded and besides they didn't serve food. Instead we found a cafe called The Bad Ass Cafe. We had a very good burger here. It was right in the square where we could watch people. On the corner was a band playing and they were pretty good. We stopped and listened to them for a while.

We walked slower on our route back to the hotel. We stopped and watched the performers along the way. There was an acrobat that was pretty good. We did make it back to the hotel. Jen was too tired, but Mom and I went down to the bar for our nightcap.

We were making our way back to our room, when we were stopped by a gentleman from Donegal. He invited us to sit with him and his wife and he bought us a drink. Boy that man could talk. He was just fasincated that we were Americans. Mom and I couldn't get away. Somehow he managed to motion to the bartender for another drink. Mom and I eneded up having three drinks in total. Our saving grace was that the bar was closing down for the night. We kept telling him that we had to go because we have an early morning.

He was a funny little guy and boy could they talk. I liked him because he said I looked 30 and Mom looked 50. I think the two bottles of wine he drank had alot to do with that. He determined that Mom is of Irish descent, even though her forebears came from Scotland. Since Scotland is just across the way and it was so easy to move between Ireland and Scotland, that she is Irish. She has the look of an Irish mother. His wife even agreed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Galway To Sligo

Once again we got everything ready to go, our suitcases out the door to be loaded on the bus. This morning at breakfast we about caused an international incident. Every meal we have our coffee and tea last, well one of the guys noticed that the coffee pot was just right here, so we helped ourselves. The poor young waiter was having a tizzy, this can't be happening. I think he even got in trouble by the head waiter. Anyone the guys explained what had happened and we were very sorry. I have to tell you that it was nice to have a cup of hot coffee with my breakfast.

On the bus we went, the sun is shining again, very nice to see. We are making our way north up to Sligo. Our first stop is to the village of Knock. This is a village where about 200 years ago the villagers saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary. To this day it is a very religious site. In 1979 Pope John Paul II said mass here and gave the village a gift of a golden rose. The church and the whole site is very pretty. The original chapel is still standing and we were able to get inside and take photos. They have built a church on the site where the appartitions took place and while we were there, they were getting ready for mass. We had about an hour to spend here. Once again Jen and I lost Mom. We were making our way to the bus when we found Mom again. She was on a different path than we were. Mom and I had talked about splitting up when we have just a short stop at these places, this way we can get more photos. As it was we were getting the same photos of everything.

We made it to Sligo early, too early to check in, so we stopped for lunch in the town. We were dropped off in a part of town where the river run through. We ate lunch in a little coffee shop along the river. It was too cool to eat outside. We sat by the window and watched the people up and down the walk. We watched a little girl feed the pigeons. After lunch we walked a bit along the river then back to the bus. It was still early to check in so we were taken to another hidden treasure of Ireland. We went to The Holy Well. This is an outside place of worship. For 800 years the Irish people were oppressed by the English and were not allowed to practice their faith, so they did it in secret. Here they worshiped in secret. It is very beautiful with altars and statues. It is used to this day as a place of worship.

Now it was time to check into our hotel. We stayed on the bus for our optional tour of the Belleek Pottery Factory in Northern Ireland. As we made our way to Belleek, we stopped at Drumcliffe. This is where the poet William Butler Yeats is buried. He spent his childhood in Sligo and a relative of his was the priest at Drumcliffe. The church is very beautiful and there is one of the few original celtic crosses here. Very few are left standing today.

We arrived in Belleek, we wouldn't have known we were in Northern Ireland until our guide told us. There are no markers or borders, those were taken down after the "troubles". We were not allowed to take photos in the factory except in the spot where they weave the baskets. After watching them, I will appreciate these delicate pieces more. Such intricate work and very time consuming. After our tour, we wandered through the show room. We all bought a bell that is only sold at the Belleek site. Since we were in Northern Ireland, they don't take euro for money, they are under the pound sterling. Fortunate for us they took American money and we had the bells shipped home. It only cost $20 to ship it home. The only bad part is that it will take 4-6 weeks. We figured it was better to have these delicate things shipped as they would pack it nice and safe and if the bells do arrive broken, they will be replaced at no cost. Alot better than packing them in our suitcases or carry on bags.

We got back to the hotel in plenty of time. We had about an hour before dinner, so Mom and I took a walk along the Sligo Bay. It was a pretty time of day, just before sunset. We were inside eating dinner during sunset, so we missed that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Limerick To Galway

Woke up to a very big surprise, the sun was shining. We were so happy to see that sun and it sure felt good. Today we are on our way to see the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, which are all outside things.

We are now getting into more the scenic parts of our drives as we follow the coastline. Our first stop was The Cliffs of Moher. Very beautiful scenery with sheer and jagged cliffs with luxurious green pastures on top. We spent about an hour and a half here. It was a bit cool here, but at least we weren't getting rained on. No more rain forecast for the rest of our trip.

We were able to get beautiful photos of the cliffs. There was a tower at one end that we paid 2 euro to climb up to see the view. More spiral stairs, but at least it was small. There is a rock wall to keep tourists from venturing too far out and falling off the cliffs, which apparently has happened. The cliffs are formed from the pounding surf and the gale force Atlantic winds.

Our next stop was a place called The Burren. This is a very strange place. It looks like it was just one huge rock that over the centuries has been broken up. Strange plants do grow here and we were not allowed to pick any. Biologists are studying the plants and trying to figure out why they only grow here. Jennifer and I wandered out towards the shore, Mom stayed up by the road as she wasn't wearing the right shoes to be wandering out on rocks. Jen kept telling me to be careful. She reminded me that I don't have a good track record with rocks. Mom kept warning me to be careful too. I was, I managed to conquer the rocks. Of course these rocks are bigger and bit more solid.

One of our travelers wasn't feeling well so we stopped at a small gift shop/cafe for a short break. We were able to get some photos of the coastline of Galway Bay. We made our way into the city of Galway, one of Irelands major cities. We were dropped off at a city center for lunch, we had about an hour and a half here to get lunch and be back on the bus.

There were several American fast food places in this center. There was a McDonald's, took a picture of Jen standing in front. We decided not to eat here because we can eat at McDonald's back home, so we found a cute pub to eat lunch. I tell you, those pubs serve the best food.

After lunch we had some time before heading back to the bus, so we wandered into St. Nicholas's Church. It is a very old church and there was a tomb of a crusader. Our bus was parked right across from Galway Cathedral and we had about 10 minutes to get inside and take some fast photos. It was a very pretty cathedral. We got our photos and back on the bus.

We had plenty of time before we could check into our rooms at the hotel, so we took a drive through Connemara. We stopped at the marble place. This is where they quarry the green marble and also amethyst. Our little guide spoke to Jen and told her that she has a touch of the gaelic in her. When he found out that Mom and Jen both have birthdays in February he told them that if they put a piece of amethyst in their pocket they will never get inebriated. It only works on people who were born in February. Jen bout a piece of amethyst on a marble stand and I bought a marble celtic cross. They are very pretty. I think Mom bought something too but can't remember what.

We were finally able to check into our rooms at the hotel. This was a very big hotel. By the time we arrived, we were so glad just to be off the bus. This was the longest time we ever spent on the bus. Our hotel really wasn't in a place where we could go exploring, so we just stayed in the motel. Mom and I had our usual nightcap and then we watched some of our group playing a card game. It looked like fun and we should learn to play it. Will have to see if I can find the game "Phase Ten" around here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kenmare to Limerick

Today we are on our way to Limerick. Our first stop was the village of Adare. Adare is one of the prettiest villages in Ireland and it has thatched cottages that are in their natural setting. As usual it was raining when we stopped in Adare, but it was a misting rain so not too bad. We did stop in a church and then made our way out to see the thatched cottages. We had about an hour here.

On our way to Limerick. We drove by St. Mary's Cathedral, didn't get to go inside. A lady on our tour did get dropped off here at the church as she was searching for her family roots. Her great grandmother was baptised in this church. She had to find her own way to the hotel. We then stopped at the Treaty Stone along the Shannon River and we could see King John's Castle across the way. We were able to get time to shoot some photos. We had people who live in Limerick Pennsylvania on our tour so naturally they had to have a group picture of them in Limerick Ireland.

Back on the bus we went. We were supposed to stay at the Radisson Hotel in Limerick but instead we were moved to the Bunratty Castle Hotel. This move was due to construction at the Radisson, which I think in the long run was a better move for us. We were right next to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. If we had stayed at the Radisson, then we were tied to the hotel.

Made our way to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We could spend as much as we wanted here because our hotel was just a five minute walk away. We first toured the castle. We got a guide to give us information about the castle first and we learned on why castles were built they way they were, for defense. Again we climbed a bunch of spiral stairs. This time we had our choice of 3 different staircases, which naturally we took. Somehow Jennifer and I got separated from Mom, but not to worry we found each other in the great hall.

After the castle we then made our way into the folk park. This is very neat, has working shops and eating places inside. It was so nice to be able to take our leisure time going through the folk park. We walked every inch of the place and saw everything. We ate lunch in pub inside the park. Just ate something light.

The park was starting to close up and get ready for their Irish Ceili. We didn't sign up for this optional. We ate supper in the pub Durty Nelly's. This pub was established in 1640 so very old. We ate with other people from our group here. At first we were seated in the restaurant part of the pub. This was huge meals and pricey meals. All we wanted were burgers. That is when we learned that we have to ask for bar food. Once we got that figured out, we were seated upstairs for the bar food.

They had very good burgers and Jen had a fajita. The beef was very tasty in Ireland. It was a very nice evening spent with our fellow travelers and relaxing. When we were leaving the pub, there were some outside tables. Mom decided that she was going to dance on the table and I had to take her photo. She told me to hurry before anybody saw her. Around the corner came Bernie our tour guide. She was caught red handed. He then had me and Jen get on the table and he took our photo. It turned out real nice.

Another woman was traveling with her mother and we had a standing joke on whose mother would dance on the tables first. My mother won. She is such a good sport and I have the photo evidence.

Back to the motel we went. Mom and I had a night cap in the bar. Jen was going to check out the swimming pool. Since Jen had the one and only key to the room, we had to go find her. We made it to the swimming pool after some searching in the hotel. They don't put the pools in the central part like in American hotels. There was a door propped open, so Mom and I decided to check it out. It was just an outside courtyard with a very pretty fountain. Once we made it to the pool it was closed. Found out that Jen never did make it to the pool as she couldn't find it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kenmare Ring of Kerry

We stayed two nights in Kenmare Bay. It was nice not to have to pack all the time. It was raining too hard for us to expore Kenmare Bay. It looked like a very interesting little town and it's famous for it's lace.

This was our drive around the Ring of Kerry. It was a very scenic drive through mountains and along the coast line of Kenmare River. It was actually a bay, but way back when the Irish were oppressed by the British, the Irish were not allowed to fish in rivers, so with a stroke of a pen the bay became a river and is still named as such.

Our first stop was at a junction where we could see the mountains. It was pretty cloudy and cool then. We were able to take some photos before making our way. We made several stops at some scenic pull outs. Our first major stop was at Muckross House and Gardens. We dropped off the people who were taking this tour, we didn't sign up for. We were given about 20 minutes for a break so we were able to wander the outside of the house taking photos. It was very pretty. Time to get on the bus and we were dropped off in Killarney.

We had an hour in Killarney so we decided to see the cathedral. Our tour guide told us was just a 10 minute walk down the street. His 10 minute walk ended up taking us 25 minutes. When we started out we could see the spires of the cathedral, but when we got further into town we lost sight of the spires. There was another couple from our tour headed to the cathedral so we followed them. By asking for directions we found it. The cathedral was very beautiful inside. Had to use my museum mode on my camera and a rosary service was going on. The people weren't fazed on bit by tourists traipsing around and snapping photos.

We were in the cathedral for about 10 minutes before it was time to make our way to the bus pick up spot. Since it took us 25 minutes to get to the cathedral we figured it would be about the same time, but it only took of 20 minutes to get back. We were back in plenty of time for the bus, so we were able to take a little rest. So much for a little 10 minute walk. It helps when you know your way. Killarney was the place where we had our group photo taken. Turned out to be a very nice photo. We had stopped at this little souvenir shop and had a cup of Irish coffee. That was very tasty. After a bit of shopping it was time to pose for the photo.

After the photo, we made our way around the Ring and ate lunch in a little cafe along the coast line. It was a cafeteria type cafe, but this was the place where we got our own glasses of ice. Yeah, we were able to get more than two ice cubes, we could get as many as we wanted. We had a very delicious lunch with a beautiful view of the bay, but while we were eating lunch the rain came again.

Made our way around the Ring of Kerry then we were taken to the Kissane Family Sheep Farm. This was an optional excursion we signed up for. The rain was coming down pretty good by this time. First we got to see a demonstration of how the sheep dogs gather the flock. That was pretty impressive and the owners were glad that the dogs were willing to work in the weather. Once this was done, we got to go inside the shearing barn and see a demonstration of how they sheared sheep with the clippers and then with the electric clippers.

This was an optional that Mom wanted to do. She said she wanted to see if they knew how to shear the sheep with the clippers. It was informative but I got a kick more out of the city living people who have no clue what it is like to raise any kind of farm animal or crop. Of course there is nothing like the smell of wet sheep. These sheep were more hairer than the ones back home.

Back to the hotel we went, time to get ready for our dinner. Dinners we had a choice of soup, salad or fruit as an appetizer; beef, chicken or fish for the main meal. This time for dessert we had a sampling of different cakes.

Once again, time for a night cap at the bar. The bartender was nice and started a fire for us, felt good. We then signed up for our bus transfers to the airport. I had read the instructions and we were supposed to check in 3 hours before our flight. This meant that we had to be on the 7:30 shuttle, the 9:30 shuttle would have been cutting it close. We decided that waiting the extra hour wouldn't hurt us anyway.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Waterford Crystal And Blarney Castle

As usual we got our bags packed and ready to go, after breakfast we made our way to the Waterford Crystal Factory. It started to rain in the morning. We stopped at the Crystal Factory, unfortunately we couldn't tour the factory as it had closed down in February. A victim of the global economic crisis. The name Waterford Crystal has been sold and now it will be mass produced in another country.

We were able to walk through the showroom. All the pieces were very beautiful. Watched a short movie on how the crystal was made. It was all very interesting. We had only spent about an hour and a half in the showroom.

Back on the bus we went. Before stopping at Blarney Castle we were shown one of Ireland's hidden treasures. It was a small town name Yougals (Yawl). We were able to get out of the bus and snap a few photos. Most of us hit the little visitor center. Jen and I bought umbrellas, which helped keep the rain off our heads. Yougals is where the movie "Moby Dick" was filmed. Too bad we didn't have more time to explore, it had alot of interesting things to see.

Arrived at Blarney Castle and this time the rain is coming down steady and hard. We climbed all the way to the top to kiss the blarney stone anyway. We didn't travel thousands of miles to let a little rain keep us from kissing the blarney stone. We had two hours at Blarney and it took us an hour just to make it to the top. Climbed about 200 stairs all spiral and very small. We were able to duck into the small rooms off the stairs. There were signs up that informed us what the rooms were used for.

We finally made it to the top. It was pouring rain and windy. Had to be careful walking as those stones get pretty slick. We all kissed the blarney stone. You have to lay down on your back, grab the rails behind you and lean over as far as you can and kiss the stone. Jen and I went first. There is a guy there helping you, he will hold onto your hips to help you. Mom made it down on the ground ok, but getting up she was a bit slow. Not the easiest thing to do when you don't have much room. There was a professional photographer that would take your photo, but we didn't purchase those. Some people in our group did and they weren't too happy with them. I think the ones we took are just as good.

After kissing the stone, we then made our way back down. More spiral stairs. After all this we were pretty wet and cold and all we wanted to do was get inside and warm. We decided to eat lunch. First we were going to eat in a bar, but we had a hard time finding it, so we ended up eating in the cafeteria restaurant. We all had hot tea and soup. It was all very tasty.

We did find he bar where we wanted to originally eat, but it was outside seating so it was just as well we didn't find it. Boarded the bus and made our way to our hotel in Kenmare.

It was raining too hard to get out and explore. We didn't want to get wet again anyway, so we just stayed at the hotel. Ate dinner in the bar, just something light and had our nightcap.

There was a young family with a little girl about 2 years old there. The little girl was saying hello to everyone at the tables. When she came to our table she gave Jen a huge hug. Her mom said that she liked Jennifer's long hair. She was a cute little girl and not shy at all. She had all these people to visit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dublin To Waterford

Woke up from a good nights sleep we packed up our luggage and go it ready to go. We had to put our luggage out in the hallway for it to get loaded up on the bus, we didn't have to bring it down. Made our way down to breakfast. Breakfast was always a buffet style but the menu never changed at all on our trip. We got our choice of cereals, breads, fruit, scones or croissants, scrambled eggs or poached, sausages and bacon. With the eggs we either got scrambled or poached at the hotels but we didn't get a choice on the eggs. Neither one of us ate the blood sausages, no explanation needed. I didn't like the link sausage, it really tasted different. I did like the bacon, it was more a Canadian type bacon than the strips we get here. The scrambled eggs were powdered and very runny. We finally got some hot coffee and tea,but only after the meal, never during or before. Once we finished breakfast it was time to get on the bus and head for Waterford with stops in Kildare and Kilkenny.

Our first stop was in Kildare to tour the Irish National Stud Farm and Japanese Gardens. The stud farm is their race horses. We learned all about the thoroughbreds and how the farm operated. They were pretty excited as two of their fillies were running in a race later that day, we never did find out how the fillies did. Very beautiful horses. After the tour of the stud farm, we had about a half hour to wander through the Japanese Garden. Very pretty. It had started to rain on this day, but it was a misty rain.

Our next stop was the town of Kilkenny. We stopped at Kilkenny Castle and wandered around the grounds. We didn't tour the castle as we didn't have enough time and besides we got to tour Blarney Castle and Bunratty Castle later on in the week. We ate lunch here in a nice little restaurant across the street from the castle. It was cafeteria type place. The food was very tasty even though it was quite different for us. After lunch we had just enough time to get back on the bus and make our way to Waterford.

Arrived in Waterford, got checked into our motel. We had a great view of the town and the river. We got settled in and then made our way down to meet our local tour guide. We signed up for the optional excursion of the walking historical tour of Waterford. Our guide is a noted historian and he was very informative. He gave us information from the Viking beginnings all the way up to present day. It was very enjoyable. Waterford is also the birth place of Thomas Francis Meagher who was the first governor of Montana. They are very proud of that.

Our tour ended and we made our way back to the hotel on our own. This is where we made our mistake optional excursion. We have two itineraries and one said that after the walking tour we would go to a local pub for a pint, the other said nothing of the sort. Once we got back to the hotel our tour guide was waiting and told us that we were just in time to get on the bus to go to the pub. We really couldn't figure out why we would need to take the bus to the pub, but ok, on the bus we went.

This was the optional excursion for an evening of Irish entertainment. On the bus our tour guide took a head count and was surprised that he gained three people. We would have gotten off the bus, but he assured us it would not be a problem. Turned out it was a very enjoyable evening. We were taken to a pub out of Waterford called Murphy's. It has a thatched roof and the owners played their traditional instruments and we got a brief history about the music and songs of Ireland. We also got a drink. Mom and I both had a pint of Guiness, that nasty black stuff while Jen had a pint of apple cider. It was very enjoyable and to our surprise our tour guide played the spoons. At the end of it all the bartender let us get behind the bar and pose for photos with the Guiness.

Here are some photos on our travels on Saturday.