Tag Archives: Tourist

The Ring of Kerry

Today we left Dingle and headed along the “Wild Atlantic Coast” toward the Ring of Kerry. The day started off sunny, and has now cooled down quite a bit, but it is still nice weather. We stopped about half way at a beach and though I typically hate sitting around at beaches, I had a great time with the kids. The water was cold, but the tide was out and there was probably 150 meters of sand out toward the water (hard packed) and the beach was maybe 300 m long. Nathan found a small hermit crab, and upon inspection in the receding waters, we found way more. They were everywhere! Jenn occupied herself with shell hunting and the kids ran around, played in the water, and did whatever they wanted. It was cool out, so I wasn’t boiling, and there was so much going on it was a blast. I pointed out a thing that looked like a crayfish to the kids that may have attacked one of my toes while walking through the surf. There was also a playground at the beach, so the kids had loads to do before and after (and during) lunch.

From there we continued our coastal drive and found the B&B. She was just finishing tidying up, so we walked to a different beach that also has lots going on – including shrimp in the shallow waters, and loads of rocks for building forts. After about half of an hour, where Shawn put on a rock skipping class, we checked in and got some info on the local restaurant scene (there is an O’Keefe’s in town and that is the place that the home owner recommended we go to as well). We are about to take another walk down to the local beach before heading into town for dinner and music.

The view from a window in my room at the B&B
The view from a window in my room at the B&B
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Dingle

Ireland has some interesting town names and road names, Dingle being one of them. We have been on or through Killaboy, Killargue, Killcock (lots of kills), Bushtown, and countless others. I haven’t had any berries here yet, but I fully intend to if given the opportunity.

Today we traveled and it took about 3 hours (not counting our stop in Castleisland) to get here. We travelled on some very interesting roads through beautiful countryside. I love our GPS – I think it must be on the ‘Where no tourist has gone before you’ setting as it continues to take us on some very questionable routes. Today we drove along a road that must have been a laneway. It was asphalt, but only where your tires went. The area between was grass and dirt. Our roads were very up and down, with some twisty thrown in to keep it interesting.

The landscape has become mountainous again, and the terrain as you are driving into Dingle is so unbelievable. We stopped at one point at a scenic lookout, and I couldn’t judge the depth of the view I was looking at. I felt like I was in the middle of some panoramic painting.

The town of Dingle is a fishing harbour and is very touristy. We walked down to the docks with the hopes of seeing some off-loading of fish, but the ship that was landing didn’t unload while we were there. There are SO many people here, and there are restaurants, pubs, ice cream parlours, B&B’s and gift shops (so many jewelry shops) to accommodate them all. We ate at a fish restaurant, and Melissa ordered fresh oysters on the half shell. She shared them with whomever would like to try them, and Gemma, Sofia, and Brandon were not fans. Brandon just about tossed his cookies. Of course, after dinner we were off to Murphy’s famous ice cream parlour – most people partaking in the sea salt ice cream and cookie combination – except Jenn – she got red bread or something like that.

The hotel has a bar, and while the kids are occupied watching a movie on the computer, we may just see what they have to offer.

Bunratty

In addition to the awesome name that I can’t get out of my head, Bunratty had plenty to offer. The castle was the highlight, with many stairs leading to many interesting rooms. Unfortunately, most of the rooms were roped off and you could only look at them, but it was fun navigating the castle and going to the tops of the towers. The castle at Bunratty is a cross between the ruins that we love visiting and more modern working palaces that we have been to as well.

The village it is in is a Heritage Village type of place with a real Renaissance Festival feeling. I think it would have been a lot better walking around with a mug of mead! There was a blacksmith, and while he was outside for a photo-op, Brandon and I took turns using the 5 foot bellows that was in the smithy. It was pretty awesome.

We walked around the village, looked at some of the old thatch-roofed houses and got the kids some home-made ice-cream before heading home. Jenn accompanied Shawn and me to the CrabTree pub once again, and we were entertained by the Irish National sport of Hurling being shown on the television. It was a bit of a short day, but everybody enjoyed themselves and we have a road trip ahead of us tomorrow as we head West to Dingle.

Cliffs of Moher, and More

Today might have been the latest start yet, though it doesn’t really matter since we see as much as we can all handle in a day anyway. One funny observation, the kids are always hungry 10 minutes after they eat or 3 seconds before we leave. We might have been on the road an hour earlier today, but the kids needed to have second breakfast before we could leave.

We headed straight to the Cliffs of Moher, and after leaving the visitors center since the parking lot was full, we went to a cattle farm and parked there and experienced the cliffs in a way that only the elite get to (okay, maybe not elite since the farm caters to hundreds of vehicles a day, but still, not the typical look). The Cliffs of Moher are a well-earned tourist attraction. It really was breath-taking, and not just because of the lack of concern for safety. The area where the Atlantic Ocean crashes up against the 100m sheer rock face and causes the white foam and brilliant blue water is worth the price of admission (2 Euro for the lot of us). My one regret is that we neglected to bring our lunch supplies with us for the walk, so we left a bit earlier than we would have otherwise. It would have been great to picnic there.

From there, we headed to an area called the Burren, which sounds a lot like the word barren, which is what you would find there. The landscape is all flat weathered limestone rock (which is a ton of fun to run and hop across), and has some ruined castles, churches and burial sites. I think the thing that I found the most impressive about today, after driving a circle of about 50 km is that the road and properties along it are all separated by the exact same type of rock ( a dull grey) all dry stacked to form a wall, with sections that are like the rooks on a chess board at every driveway entrance.

Shawn and I also visited the local pub tonight when we got back home – just briefly for a pint or two of Murphy’s Irish Stout and some pleasant conversation with the owner/bartender. We have one more day in this area before heading toward the ring of Kerry, which is reputed to be just gorgeous (re-confirmed by the bartender tonight). I think tomorrow will likely be low-key, but who knows what is in store.

Everybody is getting along great and the kids are still excited to hang out. Shawn and I commented tonight that their favourite part of the trip, or their most vivid memories will probably be those of playing together in the yard (which of course they would do in Canada just as readily – and for 1/100th the cost as they are doing here – but I think it is nice that for the rest of their lives, my children will have memories of different parts of the world that are tied to different people from home, and how fitting that their memories of their time here is tied to the O’Keefe’s!)

Newmarket-on-Fergus

We got a nice early start this morning (10 a.m.) and headed out towards Newmarket-on-Fergus. Once again, we have no house number, but the owner gave us directions (no street names, just landmarks) from the airport, a direction we are not coming from. It turned out to not be a problem and we found the house after a bit of slow driving and turning around. The roads continue to be crazy. At places they are so narrow that you have to pull off to the side to allow oncoming traffic to pass by, but there is no shoulder so you are riding right along the raised earth shoulder. They are twisting and narrow, yet the speed limit is 100 km/h. We barely drive faster than 80 km/h on them since there are so many tight turns and blind corners it just wouldn’t be safe.

The countryside in this part of Ireland is quite different than the previous parts. It is much flatter – at least the North part of the journey was. It has begun to get a bit hilly again, but not like driving through the areas around Dublin. Secondly, all of the pastures and fields are separated by rock walls instead of hedges. The rocks on all of the walls for the last 200 km are all identical looking and surround each parcel of land. Considering that each wall is at least 1 meter tall, there are a lot of rocks!

The house we are at for the next three days is situated across the street from a lake and is on an acre of property. It is a very nice place and the kids are really enjoying playing here. The boys stayed outside for 3 hours running around and playing soccer on the front lawn. I even spent a bit of time kicking the ball around with them before I had to do some other things. I could easily forgo travelling tomorrow to just relax and explore this area. We had a nice meal in last night, with every single person sitting around the table and eating together for the first time this trip. It was really nice and it felt like being back home.

Once again, there is no internet, so it appears as though I will be posting this and all of the previous blogs in a few more days once we finally find internet. Jenn has written down things for us to do, but of course didn’t write down a bunch of details or addresses assuming we would just be able to look things up. Luckily, the O’Keefes purchased a data plan for their phones and we have been able to sparingly look up some things.

We are in a fairly isolated setting, and last night the clouds all cleared and I was amazed at the view of the stars through the rear window. It was difficult to locate the Little Dipper because there were so many other stars between it and the Big Dipper. I should have headed outside and taken a better look at the other stars. I wonder if Scorpio or Sagittarius is visible here at this time of the year. If it is clear tomorrow night, I am going to sneak out and see.

I Scream and Dairy

We headed to the Ice Cream farm in the brochure first thing in the morning on our way out of town. It was no more than a 20 minute drive, and when we arrived, the farmers had no idea what we were talking about – they don’t have a tour facility. They did have an ice cream truck that they were bringing into the town that day, so she fired it up and sold us all a cone. It was a bit of a disappointment for the adults, especially me as the kids have been trying ice cream in every country and it would have been really neat to cap off the year with a tour of an ice creamery, but they didn’t really care too much. As long as they get to eat it, they are as happy as can be.

From there we headed to Derry (or Londonderry – depending on what you read or who you talk to) in order to see where my grandfather was born and where his parents lived. I am a bit unclear on the heritage of this side of the family. For the longest time I grew up thinking Scotch-Irish, but the family speaks with a Scottish accent, and I figured the Irish was pretty distant. Then when I applied for my ancestry visa, I found out that my grandfather was born in Londonderry Ireland. I know they lived in Scotland though, so I wonder if his parents were Irish and moved to Scotland before emigrating to Canada or if any of his brothers or sisters were born in Scotland and moving around the U.K. back then was kind of like being born in different Canadian provinces. I’ll have to do some research when I get back to Canada. Anyway, we found the Church he was baptised in and that his parents were married in (in separate years) and got some family photos taken in front of it. The area was rebuilt (I know the house he was born in was torn down and row houses built there in its place), but it is very much a working town. We went a bit farther into the city to look for a pub they used to own and found a real hidden gem. The city centre is in a walled area and it is really lovely, with a beautiful sandstone coloured church and old towers and buildings. We had lunch at a nice Irish pub (after finding that McGinley’s had been sold, renamed, and then closed down – it looked like a bit of a dump anyway).

Satisfied that we had completed our familial duties, we headed back into the Republic of Ireland and into a small town (Carrick on Shannon I think) for the evening to break up the drive. It took about an hour once we arrived in the town to find the house (they aren’t very keen on house numbers or signs in this part of the world apparently), but once we settled in, we did some exploring. We saw some nice old buildings along the River Shannon and some awesome pubs that we unfortunately didn’t get to visit. We settled on dining in the beer garden of a family friendly pub before heading back to our separate accommodations, repeating our evening rituals, and calling it a night. The time is really flying by and it is hard to believe that one half of the trip is just about over.

Oceans and Rocks

Late start again, but not as bad as yesterday – I guess staying up until 2 and not ever having dinner before 8 will get you late starts every time. Today we went to the coast again and saw some clear blue water that you would expect to see in the Mediterranean.  Along the way, we saw signs for “The Dark Hedges” or something like that which is one of the main attractions in this neck of the country. Since we were headed right by it, we stopped for the photo op. It turns out this is one of the many places used by The Game of Thrones for filming. It was a bunch of really old trees with twisted branches all lining the road and covering it like a canopy. It would look really cool at twilight I bet.

The rock formations and coastal areas here are very nice, with dark rocks and carved out caves and very steep cliffs. We crossed the famous rope bridge today and explored the little island on the other side. It was a bit scary since there is a sheer drop down about 20-30 meters with no barriers – and it isn’t even a rock-lined edge, there is just wet grass right up to the edge and then death by rock below. We had a nice picnic lunch there before heading out to Dunluce Castle.

This Castle was definitely a ruin, but was very expansive. It was built right along a cliff and a bay and so the views were great. We toured this (no climbing) area for a while before heading back to the house. At one point, Nate and I ascended the steps in the NorthWest tower and looked down at the O’Keefes. Melissa saw Nate through one window and thought he climbed the wall to get there and I think she almost had a heart attack. The look on her face was priceless.

I think the late nights and travelling are catching up with everybody, because people were pretty tired. We headed back to the house forgoing our last stop with the intention of hitting it tomorrow on our way up to Londonderry. When we got back, Nate and I played a little Frisbee, and after a bit Shawn joined us. Of course, this worked up a mighty thirst, so Shawn and I headed out to the town and grabbed a few bottles of beer – two of which were new by Smithwicks and were quite good.

While we were inside, the inevitable finally happened, and Nate fell in the shallow river I mentioned a couple of days ago.

Another great dinner, and more late-night chatting followed and we have some tentative plans for the day tomorrow (which are also probably a bit too ambitious). We intend on visiting the town my Grandfather was born in and we have a long drive south and west ahead of us afterwards. Hopefully the next house will have wi-fi so I can post these last few days’ worth of blogs!

Giant’s Causeway

Today we got a late (really late) start and headed out to the Giant’s Causeway. We took the guided tour and heard about the various legends of the area. The walks in this area are very nice, and the natural rock formations are really cool. There are thousands of rocks, all in hexagonal shapes about 1 square foot in size, that form these awesome walkways or staircases (as they are also all at slightly different heights) along the ocean coast. We spent a lot of time climbing the rocks and getting our pictures taken. The girls all went to “The Wishing Chair” and followed the instructions of the guide, which included precisely how to wiggle your behind while wishing, and made their wishes. We took a walk to ‘The Organ Pipes’, which is a series of columns of these hexagon rocks climbing up the mountainside, and then headed along the path to return. There isn’t a lot to write about today that wouldn’t be better described by photos (see Jenn’s blog once posted – we have no internet at all at the house, so these blogs will be posted at the next place), but the kids (and adults) are having a great time with one another. The kids are running around playing, shouting and screaming and driving us crazy being kids and the adults are staying up way too late catching up and chatting. We have a few items on the agenda for tomorrow, so hopefully we get an earlier start on our day so we can fit it in.

Back to the U.K.

Today we left Dublin and headed to our destination in Northern Ireland. We finally got out of the city, decided to stay off of the main highways, and got to see some of the countryside. It is a little more difficult to sight-see from the car here in Ireland than it is in other countries. A lot of the roadways are either tree lined or they have large hedge rows (presumably to keep cattle in the pastures) which block your view. Every once in a while you can peek through a gate and see what is hiding behind, or if you are lucky enough, you are turning a corner on the top of some high spot and you get a view of the entire landscape. The fields here are not rectangular, and none of them are the same colour. Ireland is not as green as I thought it would be – but to be fair, it isn’t particularly sunny. In just about every place I’ve visited, the locals have expressed the sentiment that ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it’ll be different.” Nowhere have I found this to be truer than here in Ireland. We have had sunny and warm weather followed by pouring rain with a mix of light showers all within moments of one another. In fact, at one point it was raining and yet I couldn’t even find a dark cloud 2 minutes later. We even got to see a rainbow – which is not so unique I’ll grant you (unless you have Chiara’s view of it “I’ve only seen about three in  my life, and most people never even get to see one.”), but to see one here in Ireland was a fun treat.

We stopped at a castle in a small town and walked around the grounds. It was a bit of a ruin, and the outer wall was broken down in places so you couldn’t walk the wall, but it was pretty impressive. It turns out they shot some scenes for Braveheart at this castle. We spent a lot longer at the castle than I anticipated we would, but that is only because there was a lot to see and everybody was enjoying the nice weather. The no-climbing signs proved to be a real disappointment for Brandon and Nathan especially. If there is an area that is elevated, even 1 foot, Nate needs to climb it.

From there we headed North after a brief lunch in a park (complete with zip-line). We were running a bit ahead of schedule, even considering the narrow and windy roads, until we had a few minor complications. Shawn’s car tire blew and we had to find a way to get it patched or replaced. Because there are run-flat tires, there was no spare (and even if there was, changing a tire buried under a pile of luggage on a tiny street isn’t something any of us was looking forward to), so we drove on to the nearest town. The GPS had us go on a bit of a wild goose chase at first, but we cornered some guy in a liquor store who just happened to have a business card for a 24 hour tyre service in his car. We called (well, the shop-keeper called actually) and a guy came out and led us back to the garage and set us up. So much for being ahead of schedule. The owner kept calling or texting since we were late, then a kid got car sick, and then another had to use a toilet and then we drove to the wrong location…and then we finally got here after driving through an open gate with a lane behind it and a sign clearly stating that the entrance was not to be breached as it was private property.

The place is HUGE and beautiful, with a river rushing by at the edge of the yard (that I am sure Nate will end up in). We have big plans for tomorrow, looking at some of the Magnificent Seven attractions for the area.

Republic of Ireland

For the last two days we have been in Ireland. We arrived on Saturday and breezed through customs. I was shocked at how quickly they let us through – I’m not even sure if the officer looked at us. On the other hand, to board the plane we had to have our tickets checked by 4 separate people at 4 different locations, and our photo taken at two separate sites, so I guess it all balances out.

When we landed, we met up with Joe and Jamie and decided to meet them at their place and go into the city of Dublin for dinner. After the hour long process of getting our car, we headed to our apartment, dropped off our stuff and set out to find them. With bare bones details, and 6 different universities or colleges in the area, it was harder to find them than you might think. We finally bumped into them, and took a bus in to the city.

We stopped at Madigans, had a Guinness and a meal (it was carvery day and the food was delicious) and after a while listened to the live music (a single guitarist) sing some Irish tunes (and the boxer by Simon and Garfunkel) before calling it a night.

In the morning, the guests of honour arrived and we met the O’Keefe clan at the car rental area. It was so good to see them again – there were many hugs and many tears. From there, it was another trip into the city (where a horse show and many other events are going on, so navigating is difficult). It turns out that the road our beautiful hotel is on is shut down because the horse show is right next door. We had to drive around for about 20 minutes on very tight streets with vehicles not exhibiting the courtesy of English or Scottish drivers and yielding to oncoming traffic or pulling into passing spots. The conditions were not great.

Anyhow, we finally sorted all of that out and walked to a park to let the kids run around while we chatted, looked at a map to decide what to do, and just enjoy the weather (sunny but cool) and the company.

We took the hop-on hop-off bus tour around the city (mostly because it is the cheapest way to get to the Guinness tour) and rode on the top of the open air bus. It took us past Trinity college and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (which is gorgeous). The Guinness tour is nothing special (it isn’t at the brewery, it is just the storage facility) but it is a huge building (with a HUGE souvenir shop). The highlight was the open bar area half way up. There was a four piece band (banjo, accordion, fiddle, and acoustic guitar), the kids all sat on the couch listening and drinking their sodas while the adults enjoyed an ice cold pint. The bartender poured the last third through the froth and made the shamrock design in it. After about 3 songs, they brought out some Irish dancers, and put on a show. Then a couple of songs later, the dancers brought up people to participate. Nathan had a ball, and so did Melissa. I had myself a Hop House 13 (brewed by Guinness as well) and then we went up to the top for the 360 view of the city. Shawn had to carry Gemma since she was asleep by this point. I think every O’Keefe may have caught a nap at some point by then.

The top was nice, but crowded. We were there for 10 minutes, then exited the building, caught our tour bus back to the hotel and grabbed a quick dinner (at the Horse Show House). Another new beer, and home to bed. Tomorrow is a late check-out, and we are travelling into Northern Ireland and stopping at a couple of places along the way. Should be fun, and it looks like we will have nice weather for it as well.

Regardless of the itinerary, I’m sure having our friends in town will make every day of this trip great.

One last note – Clara lost her iPod (left it on the plane on the way back from Strasbourg). We have tracked it down and it is being mailed to us, so I unfortunately do not have anything to take pictures with 😦