Monday, September 30, 2013

A Day in the Waterford Area

We are staying two nights at our B&B in Waterford, which gave us an opportunity to see the area. This B&B (St. Joseph's) is on a convenient road on the south side of the city; we have a spacious room with a very nice bathroom.

After a nice breakfast we headed northwest to Cashel, which is famous for its citadel on a large rock outcropping overlooking the town. Our drive was through the countryside, avoiding the major highways. The roads here are famously narrow, but so far we have done all right. There is no verge at all, the vegetation and/or stone walls come right to the edge of the blacktop. Sometimes it opens up and there is a 6-12 inch space with grass. We met a few large farm implements and even a semi or two, but we were able to get by each other without too much strain. I've heard the roads in the west are narrower; I'll let you know in a few days. And I'll get some good pictures. The major highways are much more spacious, and we've been on a few of those.

One thing I have noticed driving through the countryside is that all the houses have a concrete apron. Most of them have concrete, asphalt or gravel right up to the edge of the house with no yard at all. Some have lawns, but then there is a blank area. No shrubbery. I have to wonder if it is due to a problem with the sod and water leakage or damage to the structure. Maybe I can find someone to ask.

The Rock of Cashel was very impressive. There was a large car park at the foot of the hill and we walked up (not really very far). It has surprised me to see recent graves in these old cemeteries (Jerpoint Abbey yesterday, too). I wonder what relationship is necessary to qualify to be buried on the grounds of these old monuments.

View of the Rock from downtown Cashel

View toward the hills -- field of cows center left

The cathedral on the right with the residency on the left

Back side of the cathedral with round tower and graveyard
View in the other direction, including another old church

We headed back the way we had come from Waterford, but this time headed a shorter distance to the northeast to New Ross. This port and shipbuilding town was one of the starting points for many of the emigrants of the 1840s potato famine. One of the ships has been rebuilt and is a museum for visitors to see what the conditions were like.

View of Dunbody ship from the pier

Our entrance tickets were reproductions of the original tickets

View from the bridge -- it isn't very large

Crew's quarters -- each had his own bunk

Galley for captain, crew, first class -- only room for one person in there

Steerage bunks -- four adults to each square (about 6'x5')
As we came out of the exhibits and headed for our car, Dan spotted an Enfield motorcycle. This is the type he owned when we lived in India and that he rides now when we are there. So this is for the motorcycle fans out there!

Then, back to our B&B for our afternoon tea in our room. We have found that we are doing well with a stop for tea/coffee and a shared scone around lunchtime and not a full meal. Seems to be working for us!

In the early evening we headed down to the Quay of Waterford. The road runs right along the river, with parking lots between the street and the river, and shops and restaurants on the other side. We ended up at an Indian restaurant!

We had the early bird special, appetizer and main course for one price. We had a shish kabob and onion bhaji (pakoras) for appetizers, both of which were quite good. Our main course consisted of saag aloo (potatoes and spinach), which was very good, and Chicken Raj, which was a bit strange. The gravy was sweetened with coconut milk, but otherwise didn't seemed to be spiced at all. The tandoori chicken pieces in it were good, though, and the chapattis excellent. It felt a bit strange to be eating Indian food here in Ireland, but we enjoyed it.

Tomorrow we head for Killarney via Cork and Blarney.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Road to Waterford

As to be expected, the third night brought on the jet lag and we both slept poorly. However, the day went well anyway. We had a nice breakfast at our B&B in Laragh, then headed inland toward Kilkenny. We were soon out of the Wickford Mountains and in sheep territory; in one area they were grazing freely and standing in the road. They didn't blink an eye when I got out to photograph them.

We drove right into Kilkenny, where we wanted to see the castle. The town is known for its medieval village atmosphere, and yes, the streets are narrow. The castle was interesting, originally a 12th-century Norman fortress, but restored to its Victorian period.

U-shaped castle from the large park to its south

View of the river after exiting castle

Street of Kilkenny -- two-way plus parking!
After leaving Kilkenny, we headed southwards toward Waterford. Along the way we decided to stop at the ruins of Jerpoint Abbey. We were very impressed and so glad that we stopped. The Cistercian abbey was founded in the late 12th century and dissolved about 400 years later. It has many wonderful carvings that are still in decent condition.

These three knights look pretty good!

View of the main abbey from the far side

ANother view of the abbey from the tower

A beautiful (and large) tree in the graveyard -- it had red berries.
Thanks to our GPS and a phone call to our host, we found our B&B in Waterford. He suggested that we might like to go to Dunmore East for dinner on the coast, about 20 kilometers south. We had a nice drive (and the first real rain). We ended up at the Spinnaker restaurant and had a lovely meal.

At our table by the fireplace

Excellent fish and chips (and mushy peas)

Seafood casserole topped with mashed potatoes

After dinner as we walked back to the car, we saw this old house in the process of being rethatched. It looked like a difficult job! We stopped on the way out of town and saw the lighthouse across the bay, but it was very foggy and far away, so not worth a picture.

The trip is going really well. Yes, the roads are narrow and the shrubbery grows straight up at the edge.  We definitely prefer the countryside to the city.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

WIcklow County

We were ready to leave Dublin this morning and head for the countryside. We have a GPS but we were able to navigate our way out of the city using the atlas I had brought. (We couldn't figure out how to tell the GPS where we were going -- we didn't have an address!) We were on everything from a four-lane divided highway with exits to a just-barely two-lane country road. However, the roads so far haven't been nearly as narrow as we were told. But that may change. Dan is doing an excellent job of driving -- stick shift and on the left side of the road.

Our first stop was the village of Avoca. It is the home of the oldest handweaving company in Ireland. We were able to tour the weaving area, enjoy looking at the shop, and have a cup of tea in the cafe. Avoca is also well-known as the setting for the TV serial "Ballykissangel," about an English priest sent to an Irish village. I have enjoyed it and recently watched a few episodes to remind myself of the location.

The Avoca Handweavers

Colorful warps ready for the weaver

Avoca village church

Fitzgerald's Pub -- only interesting if you've seen the show
 Heading north from Avoca we made a short stop at The Meeting of the Waters. Two rivers join to make the Avoca River. There is a small hotel and a park. Beautiful little spot!

View of the park from hotel grounds
We thought we might visit Avondale along the way, the home of Charles Parnell, a famous figure in Irish history. However, when we pulled into the grounds we realized it was more than we wanted to do right then. But I did get a picture of the wonderful small gate house, now sitting empty.

Our next stop was Glendalough, the site of a well-known monastery from about 600 to 1200 A.D. The buildings are all in ruins now, but you can see the remnants of the large thriving community it once was. I was a bit surprised to see that the main area of buildings is in a graveyard. It seemed that many of the graves (when we could read the inscription) were in the late 19th century, and I even saw one dated 2001. Many could have been much older, as the weather has eroded much of the writing.

Entry gate to Glendalough; notice the Irish piper on the left

View of round tower after entering through the gate

A small church building

FIrst of two lakes at Glendalough
There was a very nice path through the woods up to the two lakes (=lough). It was a bit too far for me, but we went far enough to see the first lake. It was indeed a beautiful and peaceful place.

Although it was only about 2:30, we decided to find our B&B, just a mile outside Laragh, the nearest village to Glendalough. It is a pleasant house, appears to have about four guestrooms, two of which are occupied tonight. Around 5:30 we headed out for supper, having more or less skipped lunch. We went to the main pub in Laragh, right on the main corner, not easy to miss.

Wall decorations included a large bellows with a wooden pitchfork resting on it

Dan enjoyed his non-Guinness stout

Haddock with chips and mushy peas

Delicious Irish beef stew with balls of mashed potatoes and soda bread

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 2 in Dublin

We started this day much fresher -- we both slept 12 hours last night! We took our time getting around, having a nice breakfast in the hotel, then taking the shuttle bus to the Hop-on Hop-off starting point. Instead of getting on the bus, we walked down O'Connell Street and found the Vodafone store. I was able to buy an inexpensive SIM for my phone so we can make calls -- especially useful to check in with our B&B reservations. 

From there, we walked on down across the river to Trinity College. We wandered around the grounds for a bit, then went to the library to see the famous Book of Kells. We only had to stand in line outside the library for about 10 minutes, then we were admitted. There were plenty of people, but not the huge crowds I might have expected. The exhibition of illuminated manuscripts was outstanding and we were able to see a few pages from the book under glass. What I hadn't expected was the incredible Long Room, where many old books are kept and conservation is going on constantly.

View from the entry into the long room

Looking up into the second story
After leaving Trinity, we got on the bus again and rode it to the Christ Church Cathedral. This church is built on the remains of a Viking building from 1028. It was restored in the 19th century. I was surprised to learn that this is where the first performance of Handel's Messiah was given.

Carved pulpit
We went down into the crypt which had many interesting displays and statues. Here are two I enjoyed:

Gold plate
Longing for her lost love (I think!)

Another short walk back across the river again took us to the Old Jameson Distillery. After our experience at Guinness yesterday, we just looked in here and decided not to go on the tour. But I enjoyed the chandelier in the main hall, made out of whiskey bottles.

Green chandelier!
As we were waiting for our bus, we noticed a cafe called Cinnamon Cafe and it appealed to us. We both had a small bowl of hearty soup, much enjoyed.

Cinnamon Cafe in lower left, but the juxtaposition of the modern and old buildings caught my eye.
We were glad to get back on the bus and head to the hotel for some relaxation. In the evening we walked out into an area not far from hotel and looked into various bars and restaurants. We finally settled on an Italian place, where Dan had lasagna and I had a veggie calzone. The salads were especially good (so was the main course).


With all the walking and street-crossing, I've been grateful for the warnings painted on the streets at almost every crosswalk. We've seen many European tourists (most speaking German) but not that many Americans.

Watch your step!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Visiting Ireland

Ireland is a country we've always wanted to visit and never got around to. But the time has come! We arrived in Dublin at 5:00 am today (September 25). We decided we had to keep busy all day in order to adjust to the time difference. We hung out at a cafe at the airport until daylight then picked up our rental car. We were in the thick of rush-hour traffic so the 7-kilometer drive took us over half an hour. Our hotel (Croke Park) is right across from the largest sports stadium in the country (capacity 82,300, primarily used for Gaelic games). We are fortunate not to be here on a weekend match day. Our room wasn't ready so we hiked several blocks to pick up the Hop-On Hop-Off tourist bus. Our pass is good for two days, just the amount of time we'll be here. We took the entire 1-1/2 hour tour without getting off. I took tons of photos -- there were picturesque buildings all along the way. Tomorrow we'll visit a few of them.

Chimney pots between airport and hotel

St Patrick's Cathedral Choir School Founded 1432 A.D.

Georgian houses with ivy

Beautiful small theater

Dublin street lamp
Then we headed back to the hotel, got our room, showers, and some lunch in the hotel bar. After a very brief rest (didn't dare sleep) we went back to the bus, this time getting off at the Guinness brewery tour. It was very impressive. We finished off in the 7th floor Gravity Bar where we were given free pints of Guinness. We were at a small stand-up table with another couple who took our picture. You might notice that my glass is still pretty full! Yes, I did take a sip but didn't like it any more than I expected to! It is very rich. Dan finished his but only drank a small amount of mine. We saw a number of pints sitting around that had been deserted nearly full. Too wasteful!

After leaving the Guinness brewery we walked across the river and picked up the bus again. We took it back to the starting point, then got on another one for a different route. This tour was mostly the more modern buildings in the Docklands area. The picture below is the Ha'penny Bridge over the Liffey River. In the morning the river looked terrible with muddy flats showing. But by late afternoon the tide had come in and it was full like a normal river. A bit strange to see a river flowing away from the sea instead of towards it!