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bill h's "Adventures in Europe"

Ireland and Company

IRELAND | Saturday, 24 September 2016 | Views [326]

Sadly, my company has left and I'm back on my own.  I had a great time, we had a lot of fun and some fantastic adventures of our own (some of which I'll talk about below!)  One belief I've had reinforced on this adventure is that traveling on your own has its advantages but traveling with someone you care about and are compatible with just makes everything exponentially better!

Things didn't quite go as planned -- the day before Cindy arrived, our whale/porpoise watching boat trip got cancelled due to bad weather coming in, heavy rain and high winds.  Then our kayaking trip got cancelled (same reason).  Both said if it was calm enough to go out later in the week, they'd let us know. 

Things went smoothly at the airport for a change and we headed off to find our lodgings for the night about an hour away in a place called Clonakilty on the southern coast of Ireland.  Europe is different from the USA in many ways -- dining being one of them.  After depositing out luggage at the B&B, we decided to go out for an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by our host.  We arrived a little after 5:00pm only to be told, it being a Saturday evening, that they were totally booked for the evening -- UNLESS -- we would promise to be done eating by no later than 7:30pm (over two hours later) -- and they weren't joking!  In Europe, people take dining out seriously -- whereas in the US, people are done eating in an hour or maybe a little bit more -- in Europe the norm is two to three hours -- and that's for a normal dinner, nothing special or fancy!  Laughing, we promised we'd do our best to be done by 7:30!

Next morning, we were up at a reasonable hour and off to see Ireland starting with the Beara peninsula.  The southwest corner of Ireland has three scenic peninsula's -- Beara, Kerry and Dingle, with Kerry being the most visited, then Dingle and finally, much less traveled, Beara.  It was a rainy, chilly morning and quite foggy in places -- somewhat "other-worldly" driving through dense forest with the fog in the trees and blanketing the valleys so you couldn't see the bottom lands.  Only made it about half way around the peninsula to Castletownbere before deciding to call it a day.

That night found us at a tiny "hole-in-the-wall" B&B with a ten million-dollar view of the ocean.  The room was maybe 10' x 10' including the bathroom which was maybe 3' x 3' (I had to open the bathroom door to turn around in it).  And there was maybe eighteen inches on either side of the bed and three feet at the foot -- "tiny" is glorifying it -- but the view out the window was amazing!  

The B&B was near the edge of a cliff looking out to sea with a rocky coastline stretching forever in both directions and the sound of the surf crashing on the rocks below.  We commandeered a small sunroom (it literally had room for two chairs), opened the windows, cracked open a bottle of wine, opened a bag of almonds and a can of potato chips (dinner) and spent the next six hours listening to the surf below and watching the sun slowly sink into the ocean until it was dark only to have a silvery moon slowly rise in the sky with it's light bouncing off the clouds and the water -- what an experience!

Got a bit of a late start the next day -- was super-foggy in the morning but decided to try and do the northern side of the Beara peninsula.  Followed the signs for the "Beara Way scenic drive" but were seeing mostly forested areas (not coastline) so randomly picked a one lane road and headed through some mountains towards what we hoped would be the water -- turns out we made a good decision.  Spent the next two and a half hours driving one-lane roads hugging the coast -- unbelievably gorgeous views -- pretty much all to ourselves!  Stopped, looked at the scenery -- stopped, took some photos -- stopped at an old churchyard/cemetery overlooking the ocean, wandered through reading the headstones from the 1800's -- gravemarkers back then told stories -- famine, plague, war and occasionally, old-age.

Also stopped at the site of the ruins of an ancient Irish castle and did some exploring clambering around on the walls, thru some rooms and in the mud -- more rain and things were a bit soggy on the "hill" that day.  Cindy's first real "castle" -- think it was a good one!  

Back in the car, changed shoes and plugged in our destination for the evening into the car's GPS (or "Sat/Nav" as they call it here).  The car, so far, has been pretty good -- the GPS, a piece of crap!  Followed the GPS directions for probably twenty miles (with a "red flag" waving in my head that something didn't feel right) -- only to have it take us down a hill and say "turn right, go five hundred meters, then turn left" -- only problem was the "five hundred meters" was open water across an inlet of the ocean -- only way across was a ferry which it kind of neglected to mention.  Short story -- we got to take an unexpected ferry boat ride.  One more of my many GPS "adventures" in the United Kingdom -- I honestly think it had a "meltdown" a few weeks ago and has absolutely no idea as to where it is -- it doesn't go more than a day without it trying to have me go in a circle or figure-eight -- sometimes I catch it, sometimes, I don't.  Guess it adds one more "dimension" to this great "adventure"!

That night, we stayed at an old stagecoach inn -- huge room compared to the previous evening -- and a real bathroom.  Wandered around the streets, occasionally ducking into a touristy shop (someone had to do some obligatory shopping for relatives) -- went to an authentic Irish pub across the street for a drink and to relax.  Ended-up having a late dinner at the inn and listening to a couple of guys playing some traditional Irish music -- they were pretty good (the guy was billed as having the fastest fingers in Ireland on the accordian) -- it was weird but the accordian fit right in with "trad" Irish music.

Up the next day and drove the Kerry peninsula -- again, gorgeous views.  Early to bed that night as we had to be on our way the next morning by 7:00am to get to our kayaking trip -- the kayaking company emailed and said we were on for that Wednesday -- drove two hours through the mountains and the fog -- little spooky in places as visibility was maybe thirty feet and a wrong turn meant the next stop was two hundred feet straight down into the water -- they don't believe in guardrails here.  

We and two other couples spent the next three hours kayaking the estuary off Union Hall in two-person kayaks -- birds, shipwrecks, rock formations and a bunch more (unfortunately, no seals or otters -- although our guide said that the year before, a group he was leading was swarmed by a pod of killer whales in the area we were in -- said he changed his underwear when he got home that day).  He had kayaked for years and had even been a technical coordinator and stunt person on a couple of well-known American movies with scenes involving kayaking -- good stories!  We had a great time, and, contrary to advice from others that kayaking in a double kayak with a "significant other" is guaranteed to change the meaning of the term "significant" (and not in a good sense), we did fine together!  A little tired and a little wet, we headed for Limerick, stopping only briefly on the way to change into some dry clothes.

Unexpectedy came across a "Neolithic stone circle site" on our way and decided to take a look-- of course, it was a half mile hike up a steep hill.  In addition to the stone circle, it contained a "ring fort" dating from 1500 BC -- basically the way they created the structure is they found a steep hill measuring 75-100 yards across at the bottom, dug a deep moat around it (15'-20' deep), then dug up the top of the hill creating a depression and piling-up the dirt in a circle (ring)  around the top edges making the walls even higher, cut a couple of entryways into the fort that they gated and voila, they had a "ring fort".  There were a number of other structures on the site including a stone circle -- kind of a mini-Stonehenge.  

There are theories that stone circle sites often are located at the convergence of "lay lines" (lines of energy) and have mystical powers (Stonehenge falls into that group).  Call it coincidence, but when I tried taking photos of the stone circle here, my camera started acting-up and wouldn't work -- since I arrived in Europe the camera has taken over fifteen hundred photos with no problems -- here, trying to photograph the stone circle, I ended-up with a single photo that looks like a negative image -- moved on from the circle and the camera started working again.  Makes you think!

Wet out that night in Limerick to a pub a few blocks from the hotel -- watched some Irish dancing (think "River Dance") and had dinner.  Next day it was up and off to explore King John's Castle -- a reconstructed castle from the 1200's built on the site of a Roman fort dating from the 1st century.  

From here it was a mad dash across Ireland to Rosslare Harbour and the ferry to England the next day.

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