Travel

Ireland Day 4: Cork to Kenmare

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The beds at the Kingsley Hotel were pretty damn good since we didn’t wake up until 11:45am. Checkout was at noon (doh) so I called reception to ask if we could have a late checkout but was denied, with the reason that the hotel was fully booked due to the bank weekend holiday and that they needed the rooms back to clean for the next guests.

We had big plans to hit the gym and pool at the hotel, but weren’t deterred with the setback. We packed our bags, loaded everything in the car, then proceeded to the gym. After hitting the cardio and weights for an hour we then hopped into the pool, followed by a little time in the hot tub to get the full hotel experience. :) We then showered down, changed into street clothes, and we were on the road again!

Originally we were planning to hit the gym and pool in the morning, but since we started late we decided to forego seeing Cork since we had a long drive ahead to our next stop, Kenmare, and wanted to stop in the nearby town of Cobh first.

To get to Cobh, we took a ferry from Cork. It’s a short ferry…only taking maybe 7 minutes to cross the river.

Cobh is a pretty small town, so it was quite a sight to see a humongous 200 foot high cruise ship docked at the harbor. I’ve never been on a cruise before so I don’t know a large cruise ship from another, but this one looked pretty gigantic. It was also very clean and looked quite new. In fact, it was brand new as we found out. It was a Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Independence of the Seas” which turns out to be the largest passenger ship in the world (accommodating > 4300 passengers & > 1300 crew); docked in a little town in Ireland as part of its maiden voyage. The town was quite lively & a lot of people were in the streets, partly due to the “bank holiday” weekend and partly due to the cruise ship leaving port that evening at 6pm.

We went into the Cobh Heritage Center, which contained a small exhibit on the history of the town’s role in emigration and transportation (“transporting” Irish criminals to Australia). Many Irish last stepped foot on Irish soil here before emigrating to America and beyond. Those ships came to be known as “coffin ships” since the voyage to America was perilous and conditions aboard the ships were horrible for the 7 month journey across the Atlantic.

After the Heritage Center, we were too late to visit the Cobh Museum, which closed at 5pm, so we ate a late lunch and then walked up the hill to St. Colman’s Church to watch the cruise ship off. This ship was absurdly immense, dwarfing large container ships in the harbor like they were little gnats.

We left Cobh after watching the cruise ship leave port, and instead of going back across the ferry, we went an alternate route towards Kenmare.

We got into Kemare and checked into the hotel, then drove a short distance back into the town center to eat dinner. None of the sit down restaurants really had anything on the menus that really appealed to us (for the price that they were asking), so we ended up in some burger joint. The next morning we were doing the Ring of Kerry which was yet another (!) long day of driving.

Ireland Day 3: Dublin to Cork

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Day 3 in Ireland had us packing up and leaving Dublin and driving south and then west towards the town of Cork in the southwest part of the country. There was some apprehension on my part since it would be the first time driving the right-hand drive rental for an extended length of time, and across a long distance. The accelerator and brake pedals are in the same left/right orientation as in the States, but the turn signal stalk, rear view mirror, and transmission shifter are reversed. I still keep flipping on the wipers on this damn car (left stalk) when I really wanted to signal a turn (right stalk). I have no problems driving a manual transmission, but I’m glad I got an automatic transmission in the rental…it would have probably pushed me over the edge with sensory overload with most everything backwards and also trying to shift with my left arm.

We first stopped at the Powerscourt House & Gardens in County Wicklow just outside of Dublin to the south. It’s a huge estate known for its house and the landscaped gardens, much like how my place in the States looks like. Right. I think my home’s entire lot is the size of the bathroom at Powerscourt.

Next we drove to Glendalough, the site of ruins of a monastery founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century A.D. and subsequently destroyed by English troops in the late 14th century.

After Glendalough, we tried to make it to the town of Waterford to see the Waterford Crystal Factory. We arrived a few minutes before 6pm, when it closes. Doh. No tears lost though, since we’re not into Waterford crystal, but it would have been interesting to see how it was made.

We kept on moving and finally rolled into Cork around 8pm. We were beat so we ate in the hotel bar and conked out for the night. The Kingsley Hotel had some nice amenities like a gym, pool, and hot tub, so we were planning to use them during our short stay in Cork.

If we were to do it again, we wouldn’t have tried to make the drive from Dublin to Cork in 1 day…turned out the driving took a big chunk of the day which prevented us from seeing a few other things along the way.

Ireland Day 2: Dublin

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5/2/2008 8:30pm IST

One of the things I mentioned in my previous post was that sunlight stays out much later in the evening. Well, that happens on the flip side as well, since it was damn sunny at 6am! I wasn’t expecting Ireland to be sunny at all, so it was a nice surprise to have our first 2 days in Ireland filled with sunshine.

We left the hotel around 9am and caught the Dublin Bus City Tour which is a tour that goes around the city on an open-top double decker bus. You can hop on & hop off at any of their 23 stops which stop at the main Dublin attractions (15 euros/ea and the ticket is good for 24 hours).

Our first stop was at the Guinness Storehouse, home to Guinness beer. They have a self-guided tour which we went on (13 euros/ea).

This way

I’m not a big beer fan, and in fact haven’t had a Guinness since probably my mid-twenties, but it was still an interesting tour on how the black stuff is made. The tour ends at the top of the storehouse at the Gravity Bar, where you get a free pint of Guinness as part of your tour and take in the sights of Dublin in the near 360 degree view from the bar. Free Guinness, I could not deny.

We hopped back on the bus and headed towards Trinity College (Ireland’s oldest university) to meet up with the S.O.’s ex-coworker who retired maybe a year ago and moved back to Ireland. We ate at the nearby Avoca Cafe.

Afterwards, we went back to Trinity College to see the ornate Book of Kells, which contains the 4 Gospels of the New Testament in Latin transcribed by Celtic monks circa 800 A.D. We also saw the 2 story high main chamber in the Old Library, known as the Long Room, which was directly upstairs from the Book of Kells exhibit.

We hopped back on the City Tour bus, heading towards Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced like “jail”), but didn’t realize that it closed early. We’ll have to hit the gaol on our last day in Ireland when we return to Dublin.

Since being denied at the gaol, we head to the ritzy Grafton Street, which we were told is the 5th most expensive retail street in the world (Fifth Ave. in NYC being the most expensive and the Champs-Élysées in Paris the most expensive in Europe).

We didn’t but anything other than coffee and tea at Bewley’s Oriental Cafe. By the time we finished, it was near dinner time so we consulted our Rick Steve’s guidebook and decided to check out a vegetarian restaurant called Cornucopia which was just off Grafton St. We’re glad we did, and we rolled ourselves back to the hotel after being stuffed with vegetables (we love vegetarian restaurants like Greens and Ubuntu in the SF Bay Area).

That’s all for Dublin (for now). Tomorrow, we head down the coast towards Cork.

Ireland: SFO->DUB, Day 1: Dublin

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We flew out from SFO to Dublin, Ireland on Wednesday afternoon for a week and half of vacation. Aer Lingus flies non-stop from SFO to DUB which was nice…no layovers that would have made our travel time longer than the decently long 10 hour flight.

The flight left SFO at 2:35pm and we landed at 8:35am Dublin time. After clearing immigration and customs, we went to pick up our rental car. Since my auto insurance doesn’t provide coverage in the EU, I ended up getting the full insurance coverage from Dollar, which was a ankle-grabbing 29 euros a day. Since I’d never driven in a right-hand drive country before, I figure I wanted piece of mind that if I had the unfortunate luck of getting into a fender bender that I could walk away. Most rental cars are manual transmission, although we got one with an automatic since driving on the “wrong” side of the road was enough sensory overload, let along trying to shift with my left arm.

We arrived at our hotel (the Roxford Lodge Hotel in the Ballsbridge district) around 11am, but the room wasn’t ready yet so we walked down the street and ended up at a place called the Expresso Bar. We had coffee and tea and then ended up staying for lunch, before returning to the hotel to check in.

After checking in, we laid down for a brief second and ended up conked out for 3 or 4 hours, the jet lag finally catching up with us. We woke up around 5pm and finally got outside around 7pm. We walked towards Trinity College, which was about a mile away. We explored the city center, crossed the River Liffey, and finally ended up in the Temple Bar area (Dublin’s version of SF’s Fisherman’s Wharf) and had dinner at a restaurant called Milano’s. I think we ate at 9pm, but I remember that it was still pretty bright outside from what we’re used to in SF.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and retired for the night.

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