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Being in Ireland: Day 3

Overview

  • Ate breakfast at the hotel
  • Went on a walk by the canal
  • Departed, drove to Rock of Cashel
  • Visited said, only had time for tour
  • Drove to Blarney. Listened to Pat tell us history and other facts
  • We were given about 2 hours to eat and do whatever
  • I ate with the others at Christy’s Pub
  • Went and visited Blarney Castle; chose not to kiss the stone
  • Shopped at Blarney Woolen Mills
  • Met and chatted with author Mike O’Donovan
  • Bought a shot glass for myself and a set for Andrew
  • We departed for Killarney. “Met” some of the passengers on the way
  • Arrived at hotel, checked in and found rooms. Was given an hour and a half before
    the meal
  • I went and wandered around the streets for a bit, then went back for a bit of rest
  • Ate dinner
  • Went to the pub, had a pint, wrote in journal.

Detail

I took a walk this morning down by the canal, taking pictures.  It was a rather nice experience, though I continually felt like I was being rushed because I was on a time schedule.  It was technically a pretty relaxed schedule at this point, but still it was hanging over my head. Although it did keep me from wandering all over Dublin in search of pretty things to photograph. That was a good thing, considering we were going to more nice places to take pictures of.

We got on the bus and headed for the Rock of Cashel. We stopped for a quick break around 10:15 and had until 10:30. Our guide Pat, who is the youngest of 12 kids, is definitely a interesting person. He’s quite good with interesting facts about Ireland and the surrounding countries in general, and is good at putting people at their ease.  He also is completely fluent in Irish/Gaelic.  Our bus is pretty easy to identify because we have “Larry”, a small leprechaun at the front of the bus that has his name on his hat and various pins and things that Pat has collected over his 7 years as a guide. Pat said that leprechauns here in Ireland traditionally have green coats, red pants, a hat, and a tag sticking out of their ass that says Made in Taiwan. :)

The Rock of Cashel was absolutely fascinating. Our tour guide at the Rock (not Pat) was knowledgeable and funny. The tour did start out cold and windy, and then it started to rain. But as the tour went on we went further and further indoors, so it wasn’t that bad. As for the Rock itself, it turns out that “the Rock” refers to the rock underground, not the buildings. As for the buildings themselves, it was interesting listening to the history. Everything was made for defense. There are stairways that allow a man fighting downwards to swing a sword but prevent a man fighting upwards from doing the same, stairways intentionally built with different levels of steps, doorways that are easy to walk through as long as you’re not wearing a helmet, and hallways that are pitch dark but have holes above for rocks to be thrown into.

I got a lot of pictures, so I hope some of them come out well. Mom, unfortunately, had to stop not that far in since her battery died. She said she can just get shots from me till we have a chance to get her battery recharged.

I loved the Rock of Cashel. The only thing I didn’t love was the fact that once again the tour ended and we had to hurry off. There was enough time for the tour, but definitely not enough time to wander around afterward. If you didn’t get the picture you wanted the first time around, there was no chance to get it later.

About this time I discovered something about the general bus travel. I either needed to eat more for breakfast or bring something to snack on. We left Cashel around 12:05, but lunch was still very far away. In fact we didn’t stop for lunch until around 2. Ugh.

As we went to our next destination, our driver said that the second most popular beer in Ireland is actually Budweiser. However, it isn’t the same as American Bud. In Ireland, the Guinness brewery makes Budweiser, so it tastes different. In other words, better.

But anyway, the next stop was Blarney, specifically for the Blarney Woolen Mills. That part was made clear; technically this was a lunch and shopping stop. We could sacrifice some of our own personal time and visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone if we liked, but it wasn’t an actual tour stop. We were also warned that doing so would take around 45 minutes, so it wasn’t going to be a trivial amount of time. (We were given around 2 hours for eating and shopping total.)

Mom and James decided that their first act was going to be visiting the Stone, so they left the group immediately. The other remaining members scattered, some of them deciding, unsurprisingly, to go on a smoke break. I decided I was going to eat. There were only a couple of places: the actual restaurant attached to the Woolen Mills or a pub. I went with the pub. The others chose to follow me. Frankly at this point I didn’t care whether or not I ate with them; I just wanted food.

After finding a seat and figuring out what I wanted to eat, I put my order in at the bar while the others were still figuring things out. The food came out quickly enough, and I had my meal eaten by 2-ish. We had until 3:30, so I had the choice of shopping the whole time or trying to fit the castle in. I couldn’t care less about kissing the stone, but I did want to see the castle. In order to do that I had to pay 10 euros, but I figured what the hell. If I missed it now there wasn’t going to be a second chance, so I went for it.

It was still raining out when I walked over to the castle. It’s… um, Ireland, you know. They have it really rigged so that you can’t even really see the castle at all unless you pay the admission fee, so I paid. The castle itself was rather interesting. There were a lot of nooks and crannies and interesting facts laid out here and there. It was a blessing and a curse that there was no guide. The wasn’t anybody to slow me down, but there was a lot less information available. Again, I took a lot of pictures, so hopefully some of them are good. Really, that was what I went over for; taking pictures and waking all around a castle.

Unsurprisingly, the main thing that detracted from the experience was the time limit. And it did really matter. I did stop a lot for pictures, and even though I moved quickly it was 3 by the time I made it back to the Woolen Mill. I did, however, have time to look around a bit, find something for Andrew and myself, and then have a chat with a local author who was there signing books. I was impressed enough at I bought two of his books, one for adults and one for kids. I did think about picking up some whiskey fudge for Sara, but there was soooooo much to choose from and I wanted more time to think about it. Given how popular it definitely is, I think I should be able to easily find it later.

Oh, and apparently my knack for repeating accents spoken to me has bitten me a bit. When talking to the author and his assistant (or wife or whomever she is), my CIE name tag combined with my accent convinced them I was a CIE employee. They honestly thought I was a person leading a group, not one of the members. Also, when I checked out, they charged me tax and didn’t give me a form to get it refunded (i.e. they thought I was a Irish or at least European citizen). When not with the group, other people have also behaved like I’m a native or at least damn close to it (perhaps a foreigner who moved to Ireland).

After the Mill and castle it was back on the road, this time for our hotel and dinner in Killarney. It took a bit to get to the hotel, because is apparently is a bank holiday weekend (May Day) and there is also a rally happening nearby. But we got to the hotel, got our room assignments, and went up to our rooms. This room isn’t as nice as at the Croake hotel in Dublin, in my opinion, but it is still quite nice and has whirlpool tubs in every room. We were given a bit over an hour till dinner to ourselves. Everybody chose differently what to do. Mom and Liz went to mass at a local catholic church, James and Joe went waking around, Dewayne went walking around somewhere, and I decided to go on my own walk.

I went and visited the outside of a local Friary (looked like service might have been going on, so I didn’t go inside), then I just walked around in general. Whereas the area we stayed at in Dublin was nice to look around at but lacked in shops, this place bulged in shops but lacked a bit in things to look at. Oh, it wasn’t dull or anything, and going in some of the shops was amusing and interesting.  Since I wasn’t looking to buy anything and the shops looked like… shops (more old fashioned and nice to look at, but not something you whip out the camera all the time for), though, once I had made a big circle I returned to the hotel for the remaining 20 minutes.

Dinner was uninspired but overall good. See eating notes for more. The most interesting part about dinner was Dewayne seriously talking about going to a goth nightclub that we had seen.

After dinner, it was time to try and figure out what the rest of them want to do. The air was full of “I don’t knows” and not fully expressed thoughts and plans. James and Joe wanted to go for a drink, but they didn’t know when and or where. Mom just wanted to do what everybody else wanted to. Evelyn didn’t really know what she wanted to do, and neither did Liz. Dewayne was just looking at all the hot girls in short skirts that were walking around (going to parties; is really is a holiday weekend, I guess, and the rally is in town).

Even after going upstairs to show mom my room and return her now charged camera battery, no one knew what they wanted. I had semi-decided to grab my iPad and go to the bar attached to the hotel for a drink and music while writing in my journal, but Mom now wanted to follow me down and find the others. They were actually in the pub attached to the hotel, but they were most of the way through their drinks and still undecided. They said they were going to go somewhere and find out what they wanted to do. They didn’t know if they were going drinking, or to check out music, or just walk in circles, but they were going to go find out. Liz told me that if I wanted to know what they were going to do I’d need to ask them tomorrow morning and find out what they did.

So I decided to just stick around the pub, have my drink, and write in my journal. It took longer than I wanted to wait for the music to start, and we do have a early-ish start in the morning, so I retired to my room to finish writing and get some sleep. I was disappointed that the bartenders and staff at the pub Pat suggested were all from India. It rather detracted from the whole “Irish” pub experience. I don’t want to be racist, but I would have preferred something more authentic in a bartender. Perhaps Pat’s clientele are generally a bit older (based on what I’ve seen), so perhaps this bar is a “safer” recommendation given that it’s attached to the hotel. I likely would have gone to a different pub if there had been someone to go there with, you know, someone I knew who would want to go to a pub. But for now, I need some sleep. :)