Monday, August 29, 2011

Ireland's "All County" Team- County Kerry

After our lovely time in Kinsale we headed to a town south of Killarney called Kenmare. Kenmare is a cute town, but really this was our jumping off point for other places.

Ring of Kerry

Staying in Kenmare put us right on the Ring of Kerry without the craziness of Killarney tourism. Join us along the drive and see what the hype is all about. If you want to do it for yourself just pick up the trusty Rick Steve's Ireland guidebook and it is in there.

The small town of Sneem. What a beautiful country!

We visited many prehistoric sites when we were in Scotland and Ireland. This is the ring fort, Staigue Fort.

We visited the home of Daniel O'Connell called Derrynane House which looked out over this coastline

I wouldn't mind walking this path everyday

Along the drive we saw wonderful views like this one

and this one (but we had to pay 4 euros for this one)

and this one and no this isnt the Cliffs of Moher those come later

The drive around the Ring of Kerry is an all day or at least 5-6 hours. Driving this ring provided all the landscape I dreamed of Ireland looking like. Beautiful landscape and fabulous views. Definitely worth the drive if you are in County Kerry.

Muckross House and Traditional Farm

The Muckross House is a historical house owned by rich families in Ireland over the centuries. This was the surprise of the trip. I have been to many historical homes, but this one was awesome. It really felt like someone could still be living there. Full of artwork from around the world. The farms were my favorite part. They showed you what farms were like in the 1920's to 30's.

Justin's getting his pet on

A demonstration of how they cooked bread for a family.

There was wildlife everywhere which made it such a real life experience.

This is considered a medium farm house. Ireland is famous for thatch roofs like this one.

My mom and Terry along the farm trails

This was in the baby petting area. I loved the piglets!

And the baby sheep loved Justin.

Here is the inside of a large farmhouse

The view from the house, not bad huh?

The Muckross house and it's garden, Quite lovely the whole thing


We made a quick stop in Tralee to trace our heritage, well not really, but we had to say we had been there. Truth be told, my great-great-great grandfather (or my grandpa's grandfather) did come to America from Tralee in 1897. We stopped at the Museum of Kerry.

They had a great photography exhibit of the life in Kerry in the 1950's

Dingle Peninsula

We were up for one more drive and this was around the small peninsula of Dingle. This one can be done in 2 hours and is well worth it for some of the prehistoric sites.

Here is the Dunbeg Fort. It literally looked like it was about to fall into the ocean
I was so impressed by the stonework and how much work must of gone into these things

Have you ever seen a rock igloo? Me neither until now! They were very tall inside I could extend my arms all the way up and still not touch the top

Check out the fog we enjoyed on our drive around the Dingle Penisula. I guess you assume this is what it looks like in Ireland

More views around the peninsula 

This is the Gallarus Oratory built about 1,300 years ago...crazy! This is Ireland's best preserved early Christian church. This is a unique design that is waterproof. 

12th century Irish Romanesque church

County Kerry is Irish through and through and I loved all the amazing scenery; I feel like I am saying that a lot, but it was just beautiful. We majored to jam as much as we could into 3 days in Kerry and I am glad we did. I feel like we got to see so much of what Ireland is famous for.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ireland's "All-County" Team - County Kilkenny and Cork

With the limited time that we're in Europe and all of the places that we have yet to see, why would we visit Ireland for a third time in two years? The answer, quite simply, is that we hadn't seen the best part yet. This series of blog posts fill feature our week-long excursion to the Southwest and West regions of Ireland covering four Counties that I will dub the "All-County" Team: County Kilkenny, County Cork, County Kerry, and County Clare.

We began this adventure when we flew into Dublin from Edinburgh and met up with Marisa's mom, Susan. We had four days with the three of us before we would be meeting up with Susan's husband, Terry, and there was much to see before then. Pictures are below, but we basically drove down to the Rock of Cashel, then over to Kinsale for a few days with side-trips to Cobh, Midleton, and Cork.

Rock of Cashel, County Kilkenny - en route to Kinsale; unfortunately we didn't get any full shots of the former castle and church since there were so much scaffolding in place.

Rock of Cashel, County Kilkenny. There's no shortage of moss-covered celtic crosses and really cool-looking cemeteries.

Kinsale, County Cork - I love these cartoony ads for Guinness all over the country.

Kinsale, County Cork - We were blessed with arriving into town when the annual Kinsale Regatta was getting kicked off with live music each night. As a bonus we got this blonde haired kid doing some riverdance stuff.

Kinsale, County Cork. It's a great alternative to saying in Cork city.

Kinsale, County Cork - Mother/Daughter shot.

Kinsale, County Cork - nice little fishing town with tons of great restaurants

Bulman Pub - Kinsale, County Cork. We spied a couple taking wedding photos here earlier, then we dove in to take a break and a sample of the Irish trifecta: Guiness, Bulmers cider, and Jameson whisky.

Kinsale, County Cork

Cobh, County Cork - pronounced "Cove", it was a huge leaving point for many of the immigrants to the U.S. and Australia. There was a well-done exhibit here dedicated to the immigration and shipping industry of Cobh. We especially liked learning about the brief period in time where people traveled by large ocean liners for vacation - not like Carnival cruise line, more like the Titanic which also had its last port of call here before setting out for its ill-fated maiden voyage. The Irish always claim that "it was fine when it left here."

Cobh, County Cork - posing in front of Annie Moore, the first Irish immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island, along with her two younger brothers. It was crazy to think that many of these immigrants left family with the expectation that they may not ever seem them again, but that it was a better option than staying during certain periods of time.

Lusitania Memorial - Cobh, County Cork - The Lusitania was a passenger ship that was sunk by a German submarine just off the coast of Ireland near Cobh during the First World War. Many of the survivors were cared for in hotels in Cobh.

Cobh, County Cork

JFK Park - Cobh, County Cork

Old Midleton Distillery - Midleton, County Cork. John Jameson came here from Scotland, of all places, and used existing distilleries to make his trademarked brand using his own special methods and turned out to be fairly successful.

Although we're not huge whisky people, we did the Jameson tour at the Old Midleton Distillery and learned plenty about whisky making. The Irish triple-distill their whisky and it is clear when it is first barreled (as shown on the left). After three years the whisky is not yet matured, but has a yellowish color (2nd barrel). After five years the whisky is ready to be sold as a normal bottle of Jameson (3rd barrel). After 7-8 years it looks like the 4th barrel as it has taken the darker color from the barrel. I think the last barrel was a 12 year whisky. Also notice how evaporation and absorption affects the barrels over time - the Irish and Scottish both call this the "Angel's Share".

I was driving, but Susan and Marisa were up for the whisky taste-test, pitting three whiskies against each other: Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker (Scotland), and Jameson. Both agreed that Jameson was actually smoother, Jack Daniels is sweeter, and Johnny Walker is smokier.

Outside our B&B in Kinsale. Both B's were on point! We loved the proprietor here, Jimmy, and his Irish hospitality. The only hang-up was on our last night where we forgot to lock our door and a man in the room next to us stumbled out in the hallway and mistook our room for a bathroom!! No, he didn't actually relieve himself in our room, but it was a tense moment until he realized his mistake.

So, we had all of this fun before we met up with Terry in our next stop..........Kenmare, County Kerry. We also spent the better half of a day in the city of Cork, but the weather wasn't great and we didn't come away with any great pictures.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scotland Highs and Lows - Part Two: St. Andrews and Edinburgh (Lowlands)

After our adventures in the beautiful Highlands we hit up two great cities: St. Andrews and Edinburgh. I have to say that I loved Scotland. My view might be a little skewed since we had amazing weather, but I really loved this country. From the people, the landscapes and the overall culture, the Scots had so much pride in their country and it was a great spirit to be around.

We stopped in St. Andrews on our way to Edinburgh from the Highlands. For all of you that don't know here are a few facts about this town. This is where golf originates from and the first golf course was right here. The University of St. Andrew's is the oldest in Scotland and the third oldest in the UK behind Oxford and Cambridge. Prince William and Kate Middleton attended and started their relationship at St. Andrews University. We lucked out on weather and had a few hours to stroll around this cute town.

Right on the coast. Not a bad place to have a golf course

This is where the famous scene from Chariots of Fire was filmed. This is Justin's reenactment

The famous golf course, the Old Course, at the 18th hole

We stumbled across a free outdoor concert. They played some great tunes like the Beatles and it made for a great ambience.

Enough said

What remains of the St. Andrews' Castle

Also the remains of St. Andrews' Cathedral. I really liked seeing this Cathedral because you could imagine the enormity of what stood here before.

This place was huge. Both the castle and the cathedral had the best location right along the cliffs over-looking the ocean. I can only imagine these places in their prime.

From guidebooks to our Scottish friends they all told us we had to go to Anstruther's Fish Bar. This is a small town south of St. Andrews that has been awarded the best fish and chips in the UK.  Justin liked his with some Iron Bru.

I have to admit that these were my favorite fish and chips of the whole trip. Not greasy and definitely fresh fish.

A view of the harbor in Anstruthers

Finally in Edinburgh we had a few days to explore the sights. We started by visiting the Edinburgh Castle. This isn't like all your other castles, because within the castle there are museums from the crown jewels to the history of the military. 

The castle overlooks the city and made for a great afternoon of Scottish history

One of my favorites was the FREE Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. We just walked through these beautiful grounds. They even had areas where St. Andrews horticulture students were planting some school projects

One of Justin's nature shots within the gardens

We also visited St. Giles church. This church is famous because John Knox preached here.

This was the first thing we saw when heading to the famous Victoria Street. How cute!

This is Victoria Street. Full of restaurants, pubs, and shops. This area of town had a great vibe and I could definitely picture myself here. When I travel I like thinking about if I could live somewhere. There have been a few, but not many and this was one of them!

We visited the National Museum of Scotland. This place was jammed pack with history and man do the Scots have some history. It was really interesting and throughout the trip I was able to see how all of the pieces fit together. Here you get to see how the clan tartans were made.

The view of the city. Like many European towns, when the sun is out so are the people.  I love it. I fit right in with my pasty skin.

My Scottish girl, Katy, has got me reading this series called 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith. The books are all set in Edinburgh and from reading the books I was even more excited to see this city than others. The Cumberland bar is the neighborhood bar that all the characters go to after work.  This bar was located outside the main hustle and bustle along a neighborhood street. We got there around 4:30 and enjoyed a pint for good measure. The place was empty when we got there, but packed when we left with women and men in work clothes. It felt just like the book.

On a funny note, on my quest to find places from the book we went searching for none other than 44 Scotland Street. When we got to 42 and the street ended into a park I asked a guy if the street continued across the park. He promptly asked, "Are you looking for 44?" I started to smile and said, "Yes." He smiled back and told me that 44 doesn't exist. Silly me! Either way it made for a good laugh.

St. Andrews and Edinburgh are two great cities, not your typical European cities. They are definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Scotland. I suggest going in June or July to get some good weather. But during August they have a month long festival with plays, comedians, and music if you are up for it.

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