My brother promised me a win at trivia for my birthday, but then he failed to deliver. He asked me what else he might be able to get me and I asked him for a Web comic to post on my blog! And this is what I got!
It’s quite good. There is a kernel of genius there, but he could use an editor. Click on it to see full size!
September 19, 2009
“Accelerate to 88 kilometers per hour!”
We woke up in the hostel in Cashel, which is a pretty small town, and checked out. We strolled down the street to the bake shop for pastries, and I had my usual orange juice; Andy had his usual coffee (nasty habit). The hostel lady told us to move the car by 9:30 so we went back to move it to the rock where we were headed. But someone had painted some sort of black stripe down the side of it! It was pretty stressful. We tried to wipe it off with one of Andy’s old socks but it didn’t really work.
There wasn’t anything to do about it so we just tried not to worry until the time came. The Rock of Cashel was nothing like the Stone of Turoe (which is what we were expecting.) It was actually a giant hill on which was built a settlement in the 400s. It was very interesting because there were three buildings right next to each other: a round tower, a chapel, and a Cathedral that was built in between the two. It was built close enough to the other buildings that the design had to be modified quite a bit: windows were moved and the long and short ends were switched from their usual design. We took a lot of pictures and took the tour, which I listened to intently but Andy mostly ignored.
There was also a small museum and an A/V presentation and we took our time and let it all sink in.
We decided at this point that we wanted to get the car handled and stay at a hotel near the airport in Dublin this night , so we had better be on our way. We headed in that direction but wanted to stop for at least one more thing and it’s lucky we did.
We drove along the sometimes-highway sometimes-motorway. It wasn’t very stressful since we had plenty of time and it was the nicest highway we had been on. The only interesting thing that happened during the drive was we were held up by the National Ploughing Championships in a little town called Abbeyleix. The traffic for the championships was kind of brutal, but we listened to Irish radio and stuck it out. We found the whole thing very cute.
The place we ended up stopping was called Kildare. On the map it was marked as “Kildare Round Tower.” We pulled up to the Tower and Cathedral but there was no one around. We walked around not knowing what to do. There was a car parked in the parking lot, though, and a woman got out and told us that the person who runs the tower was at lunch and would be along shortly. She also was working in the Cathedral that day as the curator has Saturdays off. When the man arrived, he opened the Cathedral and we went in.
It was a lot like the other Cathedrals we had seen except this one was dedicated to St. Brigid, who apparently founded the church, the town, and was ordained a bishop “accidentally” even though she was a woman. Her story was fun and inspiring. The lady at the church talked to us about Obama and what we had done in Ireland and our ancestry. She was very sweet.
We were excited to be able to go up in the round tower. We had seen 3 or 4 in our travels but hadn’t been allowed to go inside any of them. The guide told us that this was only one of two where it was allowed. We had to climb 7 14 foot ladders to get to the top, and it was a very tight space. The view was magnificent and I fully recommend doing it if you can handle the enclosed spaces on the way up. The guide sent us to a museum in town where we watched another A/V presentation, this one hosted by a ghost who knew St. Brigid. It was cute and quirky.
At this point, we were pretty worn out. We headed back to Dan Dooley car rentals to turn in the car. The only thing was: the stripe. I was pretty worried about this. Andy was worried too that I would end up paying the €1000 deductible, which is a whole lot.
The woman at the counter wasn’t sure if I would have to. She did successfully identify the cause of the mark: black magic marker. Then she called over the person who gets the cars ready for rental to see if he could remove it. He said the only thing he knew to try would be petrol. He brought some over and started wiping and it was coming off! I was saved! The attendant said “Thomas, you are a great man.” And I said “Yes, Thomas, you are a great man indeed!” and he blushed and said he wasn’t. But he totally was.
After we turned in the car, we went to the airport to try to find a hotel to stay at. We picked up the red courtesy phones but we could only find one hotel with vacancies, and they were charging an arm and a leg! Apparently, the all-Ireland football finals were that weekend in Dublin, and everything was booked up. This is like their Superbowl and we had been hearing about it all week. We considered ourselves lucky to find a vacancy and paid the rate, taking the hotel shuttle.
We hung out in the hotel bar for a few hours and watched football and wondered if we might meet some people, but we didn’t. There was a wedding at the hotel and Andy kept ribbing me about bridesmaids while we drank our cider but none of them ever really emerged. We watched Casino Royale in our hotel room and went to sleep.
I won’t write about the last day, a travel day, except to say that we saw a motorcycle accident just outside our hotel as we were waiting for the shuttle. That was the only eventful thing that happened. Oh, and Andy calculated the number of pictures we had taken and the number taken on each particular day. The total came out to around 940, which you can divide by 8 to get the per-day total. Most of them were on his camera.
You’ve seen some of them in these blog posts but you can see the best of our Ireland pictures (pared down to about 400ish) on Google Photo.
Here is a map of where we went on this our eighth day:
September 18, 2009
“Everyone says we should go to Galway.”
“I say you should learn to drive a manual.”
Andy got up at 6, as promised. I slept in until 9:30. Andy claims he took pictures and saw the sunrise and that it was the best morning ever. He also paid 4 euro for two cups of coffee and found some sugar packets with quotations that he liked.
When I finally got my comparatively lazy butt up, I had another shower and spruced up for the first time in a couple days. We were feeling good which was important because we had a lot to do that day. Our plan was to hit as many historic sites as we could in county Galway before backtracking a bit to hit one place we had missed, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which came highly recommended by a few people including the fellow who checked us out of our room.
We chanced upon our first stop accidentally, called Dunguaire Castle. It was closed, so we wandered around outside. It had a very impressively sized moat, but at low tide it seemed more like a bog. We didn’t stay too long as tour buses started to arrive.
After a short drive was our first planned stop in Athenry. We stopped at the ruins of an Abbey outside of town and took some pictures. Then we walked down the street to get scones at a very nice bake shop, wandered the town gardens while eating them, then drove the two blocks over to the castle. The main attraction there was a 20 minute A/V presentation that was mainly good except for the two-to-three minute sections that were just slideshows of castles and abbeys in the area that all pretty much looked the same. Andy said “at least now we don’t have to visit all of them.”
The next stop on our whirlwind tour of county Galway was the Turoe Stone. We drove about ten kilometers out of the way to see this, and it was a little disappointing. The actual stone was locked in a little house to protect it from the elements with a tiny window in the door to look through. The whole thing was surrounded by a closed “family fun park” which included an inflatable city. This led Andy to yell “inflatable city!” every time something underwhelming came up on the rest of the trip.
Thorr Ballylee, the next stop, was the castle that Yeats restored and lived in when he was writing. The place was closed for the season but there were some people there cleaning up who let us in for free to see it. It was a beautiful towerhouse located next to a babbling brook. This was the first time we were able to go out on the battlements, which was exciting. There were also Yeats quotations all about and I especially liked his dedication of the tower to his lady.
After that excitement, we decided it was time to find something to snack on for lunch. We drove down to eat lunch in Gort just to be able to say we did something in Gort. Andy made his only foray into parallel parking here, which elicited a bit of a cracking sound from one of the hubcaps. It turned out to be okay, though. We had sandwiches in a bar that was almost entirely empty, which seems to have been a trend throughout the trip. The barmaid was flirting with the only two other customers there, and they were all young whippersnappers. We walked down to see the city centre of Gort, then wandered back to the car and set off for Bunratty.
We back-tracked a bit down to near Limerick to visit the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which came highly recommended. Comparable to Colonial Williamsburg, in theme if not in scope, it features recreations and originals of all types of living spaces from around Ireland. I especially liked the home from the Burren area, made entirely from the flat limestone slabs of that region we had seen just the day before.
The Castle of Bunratty had spiral staircases on all four sides with interesting things to see on two floors of each. They also had a full sized banquet hall where they hold actual banquets in the evenings. We were able to go up to the very impressive and extensive ramparts on top of the castle. This and Barryscourt Castle were the two most impressive and exciting castles we visited.
At Bunratty they also had a very cool miniature work pony about the size of the dog that loved to lick Andy’s hand, and some very cool working dogs that were the size of large ponies. Their re-creation of an Irish town from the 19th century seemed spot-on. I especially liked that the pawn shop was recessed so you could go in without anyone noticing. The pottery shop was very nice and the shop owner very friendly. At this point, Andy had run out of Euros, but he let us buy some gifts with American dollars at a very good exchange rate. He was quite tickled by the $2 bills I used to pay.
They also had very neat examples of horizontal and vertical mills. The mills weren’t running at this point in the season, but the vertical one was attached to a wishing well. I threw in a 50 eurocent piece and wished for a sick friend of mine to get better, a 20 eurocent piece wishing for long happiness for Andy and his new girlfriend Claire and another 20 eurocent piece wishing to find a little love of my own. I guess the luck from this will have to do, since we didn’t try to get the gift of gab from the Blarney Stone.
The one thing Andy says he regrets was not going to the banquet at Bunratty but it looked quite expensive, so we skipped out on it. Andy will have to catch it the next time! We headed down the road towards Dublin. At this point, Andy was very tired after having got up for the sunrise and needed some caffeine. After about an hour of looking, we found a fast food takeaway place to stop at in the town of Golden called Golden Kabob. Andy got fish and chips, a spicy wedges, and a can of Coke. I got a small margherita pizza and a “Club Orange,” a popular soft drink kind of like Orangina. We sat in a nearby park next to a brook and a castle ruin to eat and reflect on the day. It was very relaxing and the food was surprisingly good.
We decided that we wanted to see the “Rock of Cashel” the next day, so we drove the last five kilometers of the day. We parked in a car park and started looking for a hotel. The first one we tried (which was inside an old towerhouse) had no vacancies, but the clerk pointed us to a hostel. It was very nice and quaint. I went to the ATM to get cash and Andy moved the car out front and we settled in. We had a four-bed room to ourselves.
Before bed, we talked and agreed that even though it was super-fun, we were both about ready to head home.
Here is a map of where we went on this our seventh day:
September 17, 2009
“It’s difficult to adequately moderate your temperature in this country.”
We got up quickly and quietly to avoid our still-sleeping roommates and checked out without a shower or partaking of the free breakfast, since we couldn’t find it. We walked back to the car and got out of the garage before 9:15, when it would have started to cost more money. We had endured the evening commute traffic the day before, so now we got a taste of the morning commute. I navigated okay, mostly due to good planning and good signage, and we got out of Cork without incident.
We were running low on petrol so we decided to stop just north of Mallow to top up. We had no idea whether the car took unleaded or diesel, but the gas cap told us. Then we had no idea how many litres the tank held, so we went inside to ask. The attendant told us we could fill up BEFORE we paid. We were so used to Maryland where no one trusts you to do this, and it was refreshing. We got gas and everything worked out. We realized the price was not as low as it seemed because a) it’s Euros, b) it’s liters which are less than half a gallon. I believe the listed price was €1.14. We also both used the ATM here to top off our wallets as well.
After about a two and a half hour drive (Andy smoked in the car after Charleville and Limerick using stressed city driving as an excuse) we came to the Cliffs of Moher. This was pretty much the only thing we had planned to see other than Dublin when we arrived in country. Parking was €8, but seeing the cliffs was free. It was very impressive and very beautiful. I paid €2 to go up in a small tower at the edge of the cliffs. It would have been worth it except there was a cloud of gnats everywhere at the top of the tower, so many that you couldn’t really see. I advised Andy not to partake.
The Romanian casino dealer Andy had talked to the night before told him the best parts of the Cliffs are past the sign marked “Private Property” and “Extreme Danger.” When we got to that point, there were a lot of people just going through but many were turning around. Andy was determined to do the hour-each-way walk but I was not sure and said I would stay behind. You walk right along the cliff edge with no guardrail or anything past the sign. So, Andy started off. I took pictures of people for them and watched the goings-on while staying behind. Then one group came. They looked like Americans: a man, his parents, and his wife or girlfriend. She just started up the quasilegal path without a second word while they stayed behind and fretted and called out for her to come back. She did and they teased her about falling to her death and they left.
I pondered on it for a while and figured that I would rather be like her than like them, and I might only ever come to this place once in my life, so I decided to do the walk. I set off about ten minutes after Andy had. We each had to walk our own path, I guess. It was about an hour and neither one of us made it to the actual end. I met up with Andy as he was returning. It was a good hike but very hot and tiring: tiring enough that we could definitely feel it the next day.
When we got back to the public area of the cliffs, we stopped to look out over them on a concrete platform and heard a thunderous noise. It was something like: BOOM… BOOOM…. SPLASH. After looking around and hearing a few people talk about it, we learned that some of the cliffs had fell into the sea right below where we were standing. It was pretty exciting.
We checked out the gift shops and left. We had determined that the next stop was going to be a cave. The question was: which one? There were two choices that we could determine: Doolin Cave and Ailwee Cave. I was determined to do the second because it was on my map and the brochure had a picture of a bear on it. But Andy decided on Doolin Cave and had his heart set on it. That’s where we ended up and he made the right choice in the end, I think.
Doolin Cave was gorgeous. It has the largest stalactite in the world along with everything else you might want in a cave: underground rivers, stalactites and stalagmites, reflections, darkness, and little unexplored cave offshoots filled with the unknown. The tour guide had been a caver since the early 60’s and had a wonderful sense of humor. When someone asked him if the big stalactite was going to fall down, he said “I hope not, the bank manager would be very upset.” He had a lot of knowledge about the caves and the various scientific studies being performed on them.
After Doolin, we continued along the coast road. We didn’t know but we had entered The Burren, a protected area of limestone steps and sheets that is quite otherworldly. This goes from the ocean all the way up to the mountains. We stopped off at the side of the road to explore and enjoy the landscape. Andy said this was the best part to drive because it was fast, easy, and beautiful.
We had considered going to Galway but city life is not for Mr. Poob. So we stayed on the scenic coast road a bit longer looking for a place to stay the night. First, we found a place to eat called Vasco. It reminded us very much of California cuisine. Some British guy who looked like the villain from Underworld, we’ll call him Nigel, forced his wife to eat a whole piece of chocolate cake.I liked it because they had a non-alcoholic drinks section and promised the food was local and healthy. I had a mixed berry smoothie, tomato and seafood chowder, and a mini-cheese platter. Andy had potato and Italian basil soup and the small meat platter. The platters came with grapes and horseradish which were both yummy.
Also, this town had a graveyard where we looked for ancestors but all the graves older than 1930 had been eroded and couldn’t be read. We eventually stopped trying to do this for this reason and because it feels kind of weird to be a tourist in a graveyard.
The town also had one last interesting feature: haybales that smelled like olives. They smelled really good.
After doing a B&B and a hostel the previous two nights, neither of which provided a successful showering experience for us, we decided to stay in a hotel. The waitress said there was a new one in the next town over so we set out.
She had said that it was across from the pier so when we came to one, we pulled over. All we saw was a bar with lots of old women singing “Boots are Made for Walking,” so Andy went in and asked where the hotel was. They told us it was next door. When we went next door and walked in the open entryway, it seemed wrong. An old man across the street questioned what we were doing and told us where to go. I think we the place we had walked into was his house.
The hotel was great except it had no wifi. I showered that night and the next morning. It was glorious. Andy asked me for some godforsaken reason to set my phone alarm for 6AM, so I did. And laid down my head.
Here is a map of where we went on this our sixth day:
September 16, 2009
“Cliffs and castles, my friend, it’s all about cliffs and castles.”
I had set my phone to alarm at 8:15 for our complimentary breakfast at 9. I got up when it went off and got in the shower. I couldn’t figure out how to work it, at least, how to get hot water to come out. It turned itself off eventually, which I figured meant my shower time was over. I told Andy not to even try when he got up at 8:30 and we packed up. Then I realized I couldn’t find my passport, which I had been keeping in my pocket.
I was very stressed out. The last time I knew I had it for sure was the rental car desk. Andy and I talked over our options before and during breakfast. It could be in Wicklow, Pirate’s Cove, The Gallyvoe Beach, or the Gallyvoe Hotel. We figured we could try calling these places and then the American Embassy if that didn’t work.
I was too stressed out to eat much of my full Irish breakfast, which involved a lot of meat anyway. I nibbled at the egg and bread and waffle-looking potato patty. So we got through it and talked to the hostess. She told us a few things about Cobh, which we were about to visit and gave us a B&B brochure. When I told her about my passport, she offered to call the hotel. She did and they had it! We were saved. We drove down to the hotel (for the third time) and retrieved it from their reception. With a great sense of relief on my part, we were off to Cork and Cobh (pronounced Cove)!
But first, we stopped in Ballycotton, a town on the far southern coast with a cliff walk. This was a beautiful stroll along the cliffs and our first in Ireland. I wanted to hurry and get to the city but Andy admonished me that it was all about the cliffs and castles. So, we did the cliff walk and it was excellent. We parked next to the local pitch-and-putt and started out.
We were pretty high up, but at one point there were stairs down to the sea that Andy took, but I stayed at the top. We took pictures of each other in our respective positions. We saw a bunker maybe three quarters of a mile further down the cliff and decided to end our walk there. It was pretty cool and had lots of interesting graffiti in it. On our way back to the car, we passed a lot of morning joggers. Andy asked me if I lived here if I would do the walk every day. Like a true party pooper, I told him I probably only would if the other end of the walk was where I worked. It really was beautiful, though.
We took the coastal road back to the main highway that goes to Cork and Cobh. I was getting agitated because we hadn’t paid our toll from Dublin the day before and we had to do it by 8pm. So, we decided to stop in a town called Midleton. We went to the supermarket, since that’s foten where you can do it, but the clerk had no idea what we were talking about. A very nice local customer pointed us to where we could do in town at a convenience store type place. Paid up!
We then headed out of town the wrong way, drove for 10 minutes, turned around and came back so that we could leave the right way. We were on our way to Cobh, which is an island with only bridge to get on and off of it. We followed the signs to the small harbor town and drove through FOTA, a wildlife preserve along the way. We came into town in kind of an unexpected place and parked on the promenade, which is a waterfront area on the other side of the harbor from the city centre. We walked through the harbor past the giant cruise ship boat ties to the tourist areas. This was apparently the point from which most of the Irish left during the famine to come to the US via Ellis Island.
We walked up a steep hill to the Cobh Cathedral, a giant gothic thing. We walked in and all around it and then came back down the hill. On the way down we saw some “toughs” who I thought were looking for trouble but Andy said they were just kids. We stopped for some paninis. Folks, in Ireland apparently they call barbecue sauce “cajun sauce.” I ordered cajun sauce on my panini and it was a mistake. They did give us a nice salad, though, and some potato chips.
We walked back to the car and decided to drive out a different way than we came in, thinking we might see something neat or maybe stop at the graveyard. We got a little lost and ended up driving all over on the very hilly and very narrow streets of the town. We even drove right past the Cathedral again. We made it out the other entrance to town and looped back around the other side of the island to the same one bridge we came in on. We stopped just before the bridge to check out a castle that was for sale on the side of the road. After making an appraisal, we drove back across the bridge through FOTA and were out of there.
Next stop was a castle that had been restored to as it was in the 1600s. This one was run by the Irish government and we were not charged a fee. This might be because it’s free or it might be because we were entering the tour late. We learned all about Lord Barry and Lady Roche and their marriage. The castle was restored to as it was during the time that they lived there. I would definitely recommend this site immensely. Out tour guide was very good and took our picture eating at the Lord’s table.
So, cliffs and castles accomplished, we decided to head into the city of Cork. The rush hour commute seemed to be happening again, it was about 4:20. We crossed a couple bridges and parked in the first car park we came to. It was the the city hall lot and they used the same ticketing and payment system as they do in my hometown of Silver Spring. We wandered around lost for about 20 minutes until we got our bearings, and headed to the city centre.
We walked down the main row with all the shops and restaurants looking for hostels, but could not find any. So Andy decided to take charge. We went into the Old Oak bar, which he had heard of by reputation, and ordered drinks. The bartender gave us the scoop on the local hostels and recommended one called Brú, which also had a bar in it, and he even drew us a map.
So, with one pint in each of us, we wandered over there and booked two beds in a four bed room. We went up and barrelled into the room not really knowing the hostel etiquette. Well, we didn’t barrel in because we couldn’t figure out the key quickly, and a woman opened the door for us. She was in there with another fellow. We checked out the room quickly and left in what I realized later was probably kind of a rude way.
We walked back to the main drag and had dinner at a little second story restaurant called Adam + Eve. I had a very good braised salmon and Andy had lamb. I was very happy with the meal. We walked back to the car and found out it would cost less if we paid now, so we did. It was €13. It would have been only €5 if we had parked after 5 but c’est la vie. I got some of my stuff from the car but Andy opted out. We walked back across the two rivers to the hostel.
We sat in the back of the bar for most of the evening; Andy drank a bit and I wrote in this chronicle. We saw our roommates in the bar but didn’t try to talk to them. Andy took a 20 minute break from the bar to lose €10 in the casino across the street. It was probably worth it, though, since he got some good information about the Cliffs of Moher from the Romanian dealer. We went upstairs, settled in, and the only time we talked to our roommates was when they told Andy where the bathroom light switch was. We slept well in the bunk beds. I had the top bunk just as I did when we were young.
Here is a map of where we went on this our fifth day:
September 15, 2009
“A manual in traffic is incorrect.”
Andy got up at 9:15, myself at 10 for a planned checkout of 10:30. Everything went as planned and we walked down O’Connell street with our luggage to catch the air coach back to the airport. We figured out the city bus was a little bit cheaper so we took it instead. We rode out on the top of the double-decker and saw the highways and suburbs of Dublin. Andy prepared for his upcoming task by paying special attention to the traffic idiosyncrasies, including the flashing yellow that occurs after red and before green.
Andy had had the hotel breakfast of bacon and beans so I had a bagel at an airport cafe while he was retrieving his long-awaited funds from a bank at the airport. We then waited on line for Dan Dooley, the Irish car rental company our Dad had recommended. It was by far the longest line for “care hire” with 4 people waiting in it. Andy raised his eyebrows at the €1000 deductible on the insurance since he was going to be driving a left-hand-side manual for the first time. But we hired it and took the shuttle out to where the cars were. Andy drove around the parking lot a bit and only stalled out once before we were off. I was a bit rusty, it had been about never since I last drove left sided manual.
Instead of going straight to Cork along the highway, we decided to take the coastal road. We drove south to Wicklow, the county that is said to give Ireland its reputation as the Emerald Isle. We stopped in the town of Wicklow and parked at the pay-and-display without paying or displaying, ha ha, chumps, as we didn’t realize what was going on. We walked along the wharf in the coastal town to the Black Castle, a ruin on a piece of land jutting out into the ocean. We walked all around it and took lots of pictures.
When we got back to the car, we realized we were supposed to pay so I put in €1. Since we had time, we went and had coffee and scones at the local cafe. Andy called his scone a “biscuit” and the lady corrected him. Maybe I just wanted a biscuit ok? The hot chocolate I had was very good. We paid and left.
Even though we were already taking the scenic route, we decided to take the even more scenic route and take the coast road. You couldn’t see anything from the road so we thought we had made the wrong choice until we got to Pirate’s Cove. There was a B&B there and a beautiful view of a long beach and cool windmills far out into the ocean. So the coastal road was worth it after all.
The drive south took a lot longer than we thought it was going to. There were a lot of small towns to drive through (and a few big ones) and the road was not really a highway. One time we were driving through heavy afternoon commuting traffic in Waterford and Andy flooded the engine by revving it too much in first gear. We also made a few wrong turns due to the incompetence of the navigator (me). Andy says “there are no wrong turns, only adventures.” I love that kid.
We ended up nearing Cork and decided to exit early and look for a B&B. We drove down a small road to a town called Gallyvoe where they had a nice hotel and a beach. The beach was chilly but beautiful. We drove back up into the country hills to search for a B&B. We stopped at the first one we found, which was pretty fancy and nice. It was called the Moloney farmhouse. It was down a very long and narrow road and the only room that was vacant had only one bed, but we signed up for it anyway as it was getting dark. We went to have dinner at the Gallyvoe Hotel, got lost, and drove 7 kilometers in the wrong direction. We eventually found it, sat down and ate. Andy had the Duck Confit and I had the Fettuccine and Clams. We retired back to the B&B and looked through their pamphlets in the sitting room to see what to do the next day.
I was offered tea by the proprietor which I turned down because I don’t like tea, being dense and not realizing it was really just an invitation to chat, which I did want to do. Lesson learned, I guess. Andy had a chat with the proprietor’s husband who had a very thick accent. I think he was drunk….
We retired. The bed was very very soft and I had lots of weird dreams. I hope Andy, who was sharing it with me, didn’t mind. I got kicked… alot.
Here is a map of where we went on this our fourth day: