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Our Amazing Adventures in Ireland: A Journal

(Nancy, Susan and Mary Jane visit the Emerald Isle)

    

October 21 -- Saturday

Our Adventures Begin

It's the day before our trip to Ireland and already things are getting, hmm, interesting. Mary Jane flew in from North Huntingdon a day early in order to rest before the long flight together across the sea. Nancy picked her up at the airport and took her to the Decatur Holiday Inn. We had decided it would be more restful than having her at the house with all our pets. The staff at the desk was frazzled - the hotel was nearly booked up due to a wedding and the Scottish Highland Games at nearby Stone Mountain and half of the housekeeping staff had quit. There were guys in kilts wandering about the lobby. We patiently waited until finally we had the key to Room 555. It was a small room with a refrigerator, sink, nice view and … NO BED!!!

Room 555 was a "parlor" room that could be rented separately from the attached bedroom and used for meetings, convention hospitality room, etc. There actually was a bed - in the pullout sofa. Needless to say, we trekked back down to the lobby to wait for a new room finally to be assigned. After Mary Jane settled in, we took her and our friend Linda, who would drive us to the airport, to dinner at Mary Mac's Tea Room - an Atlanta dining tradition since 1945. We had good old-fashioned Southern cooking and chatted until we left for home to get a good night's sleep before our long trip. We stopped at Borders on the way home, so Mary Jane could pick up Anne Rice's new book for the plane ride.

 

October 22 -- Sunday

Flying into October 23 - Monday


Click here to see our route

So much for a good night's sleep; we were all much too excited to sleep. Susan and Nancy stayed up until after 2 a.m., and Mary Jane went to sleep earlier but woke at 5 a.m. Ah well, we'd sleep on the plane. Nancy took the dogs to Adair Park and checked her new replacement Visor. She had a problem develop only a few days before we were to leave and Handspring had overnighted a new one to her. Unfortunately, the new Visor also had a problem and there was no time to get another. It wasn't as bad as the first problem, but Nancy worried that it might get worse. The MyRoots program seemed to be working fine, though, so she'd be able to look up all the same information that she had gathered in her Reunion database. If the Visor has further problems, she could always get online and use the data on her website.

Nancy and Mary Jane had breakfast at Sonny's on Ponce. Nancy thought Mary Jane would get a kick out of Sonny, but this was the first time she'd eaten there and he wasn't at work (a Jewish holy day). They came back to the house, where Susan was spending some quality time with the animals. We finished packing and called Linda so we could leave a little earlier than planned for the airport, because we were so excited. Good thing - we ended up doing a dry run unloading the bags at the baggage claim area. Loaded the bags back in and headed for the ticket area.

Our flight on British Airways was scheduled to leave at 6:20 p.m. from Concourse E. We had never been to that concourse before - it's where the international flights depart. It was almost like being in a different airport. There were so many interesting people, all kinds of accents and languages. We had a small false alarm when Nancy and Susan went to get coffee. Mary Jane sat with the bags and heard an announcement that the flight to London was boarding. She picked up our bags and came looking for us, but it wasn't our flight. We were just there very early. Finally we boarded and took to the air.

Our plane was a Boeing 777, one of those really big airplanes with 2 aisles, 9 seats across. We sat in the center section. We all had books to read, but the in-flight entertainment was too good to pass up - we each had our own TV screen and headset, a little cramped, but only the first class section really had leg room and comfy seats. It wouldn't have been bad except for our fellow passengers. Poor Susan had Fidgety Fred With The Dandruff Head in front of her and Nancy ended up with the woman in front of her in her lap when she reclined her seat. But we were still pretty excited about the trip and enjoyed our movies. Mary Jane and Nancy managed a few fitful hours of sleep, though Susan stayed awake the entire time. We set our watches forward 5 hours. Our early breakfast at 6 a.m. was actually very early for our bodies, since it was only 1 a.m. as far as we knew.

We arrived at Gatwick Airport in London, de-planing onto the tarmac for a lovely tour of the airport before we reached the terminal where we found our way to the shuttle bus to Heathrow. We had a quick cramped ride down the motorway (not quick enough), while we noted the interesting signs and Nancy began to worry about driving on the left. It seemed like there were an awful lot of big trucks.

At Heathrow we boarded an Aer Lingus flight for Dublin. The gate was at the end of a long maze of walkways and tunnels. We were in a bit of a daze but happy to be on the last leg of our trip. The plane was a bit smaller, of course, but the seats were a lovely shade of green. The outside of the plane also showed quite a bit of green, unlike the British Airways planes which all have amazingly decorated tail sections. Our plane was "Cranes and Waves", designed by a Japanese artist. Even the BA bus that took us from the plane to the terminal had a brightly decorated rear end.

We finally arrived at Dublin Airport. While Nancy was confirming our Dan Dooley rental car, (the clerk asked her if she worked for Coca-Cola (seeing her Visa card) and Nancy saw her first Irish Coke sitting on the desk. We had the cutest little Coke cans on the plane, too.

Nancy spotted a "Bicycle Assembly" sign, obviously for people traveling by air with their bicycles. There were several workstands available to unpack your bike and put it back together so you can go on your way around the country. Maybe next trip.

We waited for our shuttle to Dan Dooley's car lot to pick up our car. A charming older Irishman straight out of a movie picked us up. We got in the car, but Nancy was so exhausted and freaked out by the backwardness of it all that she gave up driving around the parking lot and traded up for an automatic. The car was a very comfortable Renault Classic , though we repeatedly had to figure out the lock system, which the Dan Dooley employee called "immobilizing".

Nancy started feeling okay after a few minutes on the M-1 and thought that she would be able to handle driving. Then we hit Dublin proper. Oh my God. People drive like lunatics and there are no sensible street signs. The major streets have tiny blue signs on the corners of buildings that can't possibly be read by anyone trying to watch the road. Both bicyclists and motorcyclists seem to drive however they choose. The motorcyclists zip along just on the edge of the lane, passing to the right or left. The bicyclists totally disregard the traffic lights, just like home, but the traffic is so much worse on the narrow streets that they seem like death-defying maniacs. Needless to say, we got thoroughly thoroughly lost and finally had to stop to ask directions. Fortunately, we were near the Abbey Tours office and figured a travel agency would be great for directions. The girls in the office were definitely not tour guides but they did give us an excellent map that finally got us to the hotel, where we learned that the airline had still not delivered our luggage.

Oh, did we forget to mention that? Our bags never made it to Dublin. The Aer Lingus folks gave us some handy little travel bags with toothpaste and such and promised to keep in touch. We called from the hotel and they had found one - it was on its way from Heathrow - and they'd let us know. Fine, fine. We'd just go to our luxurious rooms at Longfield's, the pride of the Small And Elegant Hotels chain. The bellhop led our weary bodies to our rooms - we thought we'd relax awhile and then go out to eat. We were led to our double on the 3rd floor. The room was about 8 x 14. One bed, an actual double bed, lay in the center of the room and unfortunately the only way to fit it into the room was to put it across the narrow width of the room. We had to scoot sideways to go across the room.

Nancy was appalled. This room was nothing at all like the rooms in the pictures! But she was too exhausted to pitch a fuss. Until she saw Mary Jane's room, that is. Remember the room with no bed in Decatur? Here she had a bed with no room. Her single bed took up most of her below-ground level room. There were no windows, just a skylight over the desk that let in a little dismal light.

This was the last straw. Nancy spent weeks deciding where to stay in Dublin and picked this elegant historical hotel so Mary Jane could relax in comfort after the long trip. Although Mary Jane said it was fine and not to worry, Nancy asked to have her moved, but they had no other singles. There was one double but she'd have to be moved the second night.

We decided just to let it be.

The hotel had no parking, so Nancy parked the rental car on the street while we checked in. We couldn't feed the meter because in all the confusion we hadn't changed our money at the airport. Of course, the garda (police) found the car during the 15 minutes it took to check in and slapped a notice on for it to be towed. Fortunately, he was still standing nearby when Nancy got back to the car with Imelda (hotel staff person), and he said just to feed the meter and remove the sticker. Whew! The car stayed parked until we were ready to leave, and the hotel staff ran out periodically to fill the meter.

We walked down the street to Foley's Pub, which was recommended by Imelda, to get dinner. Susan wanted pub food but, after one Guinness, we somehow got steered upstairs to the restaurant. Oh well, a restaurant over a bar should have the same bar food plus a little more, right? Whoops, another surprise. Apparently these Georgian houses are full of surprises. It was a fancy little restaurant, just a few tables and definitely not bar food. Mary Jane had sautéed prawns over rice; Susan had almond trout and Nancy had chicken breast stuffed with bacon with wild mushroom sauce. Not exactly fish 'n' chips, huh?

We stopped at a Tesco's on the way back so Susan could look for her favorite British candy Cadbury Flakes. They had them, hooray! Finally, something went right, at the end of a very very very long day. Nancy was pleased to find some Tayto's chips (they're made near the town where the Topleys lived in Ireland.)

Oh, and on the way to the pub we realized that right around the corner in the same block of buildings was the Coca-Cola Ireland office. How strange! Nancy decided that she would have to pop in before we left Dublin … or at least take a picture.

 

October 24 -- Tuesday

Dublin's Fair City

We all slept very well in our tiny rooms. Either we were totally exhausted or these were very comfy beds. A good night's sleep made a big difference in our attitudes. Nancy woke at about 8 a.m., listening to the bustle below on Fitzwilliam Street. She noticed the flower box outside our window for the first time. People were dashing along to work, a very busy street scene so unlike Atlanta. Bicycles were everywhere. She called Mary Jane at 9 and woke Susan. By the time we all got organized to get moving we had missed our "breakfast-included" meal in the restaurant below. We hoped this wasn't a sign that this was going to be another wild day. We walked down the street and found a place still serving breakfast cheap and fast . Mary Jane decided to give up coffee for the rest of the trip - it just didn't taste as good as at home. The tea was wonderful though.

Mary Jane told family stories. At breakfast we somehow got on to a movie star named Francis Xavier Bushman. Oh, yes, F. X. Fox the step-father of Vera Keck, a close friend of Mary Jane's mother, was related to the famous F.X. Bushman, star of silent movies. When Mr. Fox married, the famous man himself came to the wedding. Mary Jane said her mother and the other women were excited about the grand visit, but Mary Jane and her friends were not terribly impressed. She did remember that he was still a handsome man, with his very black dyed hair and pencil mustache. After breakfast we walked down the street to hop on a tour bus. At the bus stop, Nancy realized that she'd left her purse in the restaurant, but it was still there when she ran back 2 blocks in a panic.

Oh, first, before breakfast we went to the bank to change our money. Susan wondered what the "Lodgement" Queue was about until we figured out that the Irish lodge their money rather than depositing it. We had a fun time figuring out the money. The bills weren't too bad; we just had to read them carefully. The coins were interesting and harder to read, especially in a dark pub. There were a variety of coins; fortunately the pound or punt is divided into 100 pence. The copper colored 1-penny and 2-penny coins have a harp on one side and an odd fantastic creature, sort of a bird on the other. The dime sized 5 pence has a bull and a harp on it. The 20p is only slightly larger than the 2p piece, both of which are larger than quarters. It is bronze colored and has a harp and a horse. The 50p is a little larger and 7 sided. It has a harp and a bird of some sort. Finally and confusingly, there doesn't seem to be a 1 pound note, only a 1 punt coin with a harp and stag on it. The 50p and 1 pound are both silver colored, as is the 5 p. Mary Jane decided to hang onto the horse coins for her granddaughter Whitney as souvenirs.

Anyway, we waited at one of the many "Hop on, Hop off" tour bus stops. The buses go around town all day, stopping every 15 minutes at the marked stops. For 8 1/2 pounds you get a ticket good all day. We were ready for some passive entertainment so we stayed on the bus for the whole tour, but it would be a great way to get around to the main tourist spots when we go back some day. We hopped on around the corner from the breakfast shop, on Merrion Street across from the government buildings. Our tour bus was a double-decker, though since it was raining, no one ventured up to the top of the bus.

Our tour guide's name was Patricia. She was from north of Dublin and she and her husband had been farmers until one of her 6 children decided he wanted to stay in the family business. They left the farm to him. She was wonderful, just telling tale after tale, filling in when we were stuck in traffic, including stories from her childhood and social commentary from time to time. We proceeded down Merrion Street towards our own hotel, starting with the Georgian section of Dublin. The Georgian period was early 1700 to early 1800 during the reigns of the 4 King Georges. We heard about the fashions of the period, stories about eccentrics, the history of St. Stephen's Green. We figured out that Nancy and Susan's room was probably the servants' quarters. Each household had about 20 servants. The next floor down was for the family and the next, the ground floor, was for receiving guests and entertaining. We guessed that Mary Jane was put in what was a storeroom or possibly the scullery maid's closet.

[Here Nancy inadvertently skipped two pages and doodled on the pages later.]

We passed by the end of Grafton Street, a pedestrian mall that has lots of shops and booths, to the end of Trinity College at Lower Grafton Street where the statue of Molly Malone pushing her barrow is standing. Patricia pointed out the Tourist Center on Suffolk Street in a converted church. Apparently, a lot of old protestant churches have been changed over to secular use since Protestants are only 3% of the population now in the Republic. Moving along Dame Street to Lord Edward Street, we saw Dublin Castle and the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, built 1172. We turned down Nicholas Street and passed St. Patrick's Cathedral (Church of Ireland), a much younger building from 1192.

Back around toward Christ Church to High Street we went past blocks and blocks belonging to Guinness. Our guide assured us that Guinness is actually very good for you, much more nutritious than the vitamins people swallow by the handful these days. If you are lucky enough to work for Guinness, you're set for life. Cradle to grave, the benefits are amazing.

We saw Kilmarnham Gaol in the distance, where the heroes of the rebellion were held and some executed. We went across the River Liffey to ride back along the quays. Traffic snarled a bit as Patricia spun story after story about the river. It's a tidal river and back in earlier times, sea sailing ships could come right on in to what there was of the city (before there were bridges across the river). It rises and falls as much as 8 feet with the tide. More recently, Guinness used to send their wooden barrels of that healthy brew down the river on boats that had smokestacks, which were collapsible. If the tide was up they'd just bend the stacks and chug on under the bridges. Patricia also mentioned watching an annual event, the Liffey Swim and picturing herself in the famous painting of that name as the people all watch, hanging from the bridges and quayside.

After crossing the river, we turned left to go out to Phoenix Park, an enormous green space opened in 1662 to the public. The Wellington Monument stands near the entrance, a tall obelisk that stops 15 feet short of the planned height. The Irish people paid for the monument and when they discovered how Wellington regarded the Irish, they quit sending money for it. The Dublin Zoo is also in the park, famous for having bred Rory, the MGM lion. 

The American Ambassador lives in Phoenix Park, as does the President of Ireland, who is a woman from the North. The previous president, the first woman president, started a tradition of placing a light in her window as a signal to the people that she is there for them, a symbol of hope. The current president has continued this. Patricia said in the town she's from, a light is placed in the window when there's a wake in the house. We continued back through the park, past the Army barracks and field where so many fallen heroes were buried and into the quays along the river.

We passed the Four Courts, which was badly damaged during the rebellion and, sadly, which was where the Irish Census records from before 1901 were stored and destroyed. We turned at the O'Connell Monument to go up O'Connell Street. Ah, this looked familiar - this was how we were supposed to come into Dublin. Can't miss it, right? We proceeded across the river on O'Connell Bridge on to D'Olier Street, which we couldn't find on our way in. We rode around Trinity College to Nassau Street, past the National Gallery, Leinster House and the National Museum, back to the start of our tour.

We stayed on the bus, planning to go to the library. We sat with Patricia and the driver until the tour started up again. That was when we heard about how hard it is to keep a family farm going and how everything is changing because of all the immigration. We left the bus and walked the few blocks to the library. Mary Jane and Susan bought postcards in the gift shop and then we headed up to the Genealogy Services Department. A very helpful woman showed Susan information about Waterford in the Griffith's Evaluation Index and Tithe Applotment Index.

She told Susan about the birth registration records at the Public Records Office and said the library had microfilmed copies of parish records. Nancy looked at the Griffith's Index for Roscommon and Longford, trying to cross-reference the McDermotts, Harts, Cockburns and Colmans and realizing that she probably wouldn't be able to do much in Roscommon with so little time to spend this trip. The woman was very helpful and Susan got fired up about finding her grandparents' records. We charged on over to the Records Office with 15 minutes until closing and quickly zipped through the indexes. Nancy got a chance to look through the 1883 book, but there was no James Lincoln there.

We weren't far from the hotel and walked back towards it. We tried to find a pub to eat in, but they mostly weren't serving yet. Oh, before we went to the library, we ducked into Buswell's for tea. Lovely bar - maybe we'll try again to stay at the hotel the next time we're there. When we were planning the trip, they didn't have a double and a single available, so we switched to Longfield's.

The rain was off again, on again all day - we learned why Dubliners don't bother with umbrellas most of the time. It's easier just to keep walking unless it really starts coming down. The sidewalks are so narrow that umbrellas are difficult to manage. What a busy town - very modern and bustling amid the centuries-old buildings. The people have done amazing things with the Georgian houses, turned them into offices, hotels, restaurants and pubs. Foley's, where we ate both nights, actually had another floor where they serve breakfast. This night, we ate in the pub. Among us, we had Guinness, lager, Bailey's, Irish stew, breaded mushrooms and a ham sandwich.

We watched television before going to sleep. What a hoot - the first channel was tuned to "Moesha" as was the next, then "Just Shoot Me". We finally found the news and some public TV-like programming about historic houses. The sports section of the news program devoted whole segments to greyhound racing and men's volleyball, of all things. Susan watched "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" sans Regis while Nancy visited with Mary Jane in her room. The next day we planned to leave for Waterford and Ardmore.

 

October 25 -- Wednesday

On the Southeast Road

We packed up and got ready to say goodbye to Dublin. We made it in time to have our breakfast. Mary Jane and Susan played it safe with eggs, while Nancy got the full Irish Breakfast. Interesting. It included eggs on toast, sausage, bacon (very ham-like), tomato (hot), black pudding and white pudding (don't ask - various pig parts, we're told). She ate a bit of everything; the puddings were actually pretty good.

As a parting shot from Longfield's, when Susan and Nancy got into the lift for the final time, along with another couple on our floor, the lift passed our stop and went straight to the bottom floor. The door wouldn't open! We knocked on the door and one of the staff people ran off to get a key. We heard a lot of running up and down stairs and finally they got the door open. We were free to go.

Susan and Nancy went to pull the car around and Nancy felt a little braver, especially knowing we were headed south and wouldn't have to go through City Center again. So at 10:30 off we went to Waterford, 102 miles away down the N-11 and N-25. How long could it take? Answer: roadwork and lorries. The national roads are sometimes divided carriageways but mostly narrow two-lane roads. Nancy finally started getting the hang of it by the time we got to Waterford.

Waterford is not the quaint little town we thought it would be, though not nearly as bustling as Dublin. We stopped by the Tourist Center to make reservations for the night and then went for coffee after we bought a few souvenirs. We followed a town map to the Heritage Center but it had closed and everything had been moved to the museum, which turned out to be in the building where the Tourist Center was.

However, the Heritage Center and the Genealogy Center are different things, even though every website calls them Irish Heritage Centers, and the woman in Dublin called it that). We got directions to the genealogy office and Susan and Nancy dashed off to find it, with absolutely no luck. We went round and round the block until we gave up. Oh, we also stopped in a tack shop to look for a gift for Whitney, but there was nothing in her size that we liked.

On the road again to Ardmore, we called from Dungarvan to get directions to the hotel. "Turn off N-25 at the Ardmore signs. Well-marked, you can't miss it." Famous last words. We drove down cow paths in the dark, following road signs written in Gaelic only. We stopped to ask directions twice - again we were told "It's well-marked. You can't miss it." We arrived at the Ardmore Round Tower Hotel, proprietor Aidan Quirke.

There was a slight Bates Motel atmosphere, and it felt like we'd dropped into the 1920's. We later learned that we'd interrupted a poker game going on in the hotel pub. The rooms were larger than those at Longfield's and seemed comfy, though the heat was lacking, and we piled on lots of blankets. We planned to get up bright and early and look for Susan's relatives and roots.

The Round Tower, not the Hotel

October 26 -- Thursday

Family Connections and Noble Lodgings

What a day! We awoke in Ardmore after a still rather chilly night at Aidan Quirke's hotel. He was gone in the morning but the cook, maid and chief bottle washer fed us a marvelous breakfast and gave us directions to the pottery shop run by Mrs. Lincoln. So we set off in search of Susan's relatives, hoping the folks at the shop might have a little family history to share.

First, Ardmore itself is a lovely little town, just exactly the type of place Susan always wants to go for vacations. We couldn't ask for more than a small pretty beach and cliffs above to explore the ruins of antiquity.

When Nancy asked the woman at the pottery shop if she knew of the Lincolns, she dashed off to get Richard. Richard Lincoln is a tall good-looking guy who came in holding a thick book containing everything you'd ever want to know about the Lincoln family. And it was a lot! Susan's family traces back to the mayors of Waterford from before Cromwell's time.

Her cousin was full of great local stories and found her grandparents and mother in his book. Wait, there's more. Cousin Dick insisted we come along to his mother's house.

Siobhan Lincoln is 81 years old, knows an enormous amount of local and family history and was delighted to share it all with Susan.

She brought out family charts, pictures, letters from other cousins, plaques, and paintings - there seems to be an endless amount of information about the Lincolns. A Lincoln cousin in Louisville, Kentucky, who is also a descendant of one of "the seven brothers" who were evicted from their home near Ardmore, assembled a book that Richard showed us. Most of the brothers left Ireland, going to Nantes in France and to the island of Mauritius, while Susan's great-great-grandfather James stayed on and the family were very active locally.

Mary Cudahy was the sister of the "seven brothers" and lived to the age of 101.

We all strolled back to the shop, Siobhan included, to do some shopping and have coffee. Siobhan then gave us a quick tour of St. Declan's Cathedral and the graveyard. St. Declan founded Ardmore, making it the earliest Christian settlement in Ireland, since he arrived at least 30 years before St. Patrick.

With directions from Richard we reluctantly moved on to the north. We drove through Clashmore, where Susan's grandfather was born. We were greeted by a herd of cows coming home, which delighted Susan. Speaking of animals, Richard's dog is wonderful and a total sweetie. We couldn't quite catch her name, which is Gaelic and that of a character in a play. She's a mixed breed - wolfhound, greyhound and collie. Now Phoebe and Drusilla have an Irish cousin.

We headed on through Cappoquin where Susan's great-grandfather lived and then up along the scenic route through the mountains. Nancy was a little nervous when Richard gave us these directions, but it turned out fine. Our road led us through the Knockmealdown Mountains, past many colorfully marked sheep that apparently own the road.

We stopped at the Vee, a midpoint in the mountains where the road is crossed by a walking path. There is a small shrine to Our Lady of Knock from a more trusting time in history (an opening in the base was labeled "Donations.")

Going through Tipperary we stopped briefly at the Butler Family castle. Nancy was very glad she decided not to book rooms there. It was even tinier than she thought it would be. Limerick City was a mess. We made it through and were on our way to Glin Castle. WOW!

 

 

We felt we were living like royalty. The castle was gorgeous, the rooms even better than we thought. There were historical paintings and artifacts everywhere, not to mention a polite and attentive staff and an elegant delicious dinner. Nancy slept like a log, though Susan couldn't sleep and got up and moved into the other room. The pretentiousness was a bit too much for her, though Nancy and Mary Jane loved being there.

 

Nancy and Susan were in the Yellow Room. The walls were very yellow and covered with political cartoons from the 1800s and decorative blue and white plates. Mary Jane had the Sundial Room directly above, over-looking the sundial in the garden. (You can see the windows of her room in the above picture; they're in the center on the second floor.)

Dinner was great, although Susan decided that she didn't like Dover Sole, which she tried for the first time. The dining room seemed intimate, even with its tall ceilings. There were three couples in addition to us; we had a table near a window facing the River Shannon. There was a bewildering array of silver. Nancy had the best beef she'd ever tasted and Mary Jane had lamb. Susan did enjoy her salad and the pea and coriander soup she ordered.

 

 

October 27 -- Friday

Ferries, Ravens and Cows

Breakfast was lovely, of course, although Susan skipped it and took time to shower and pack. We took a stroll through the walled garden afterwards and snapped some photos. Olda Fitzgerald, the Knight of Glin's wife, has written a book about Ireland's gardens, including her own. Mary Jane took a picture of a little hidden door to show Whitney that we visited the Secret Garden.

Susan opened another little door and we looked out at a group of cows among the standing stones. The castle grows many of the vegetables it serves in the garden. There was a little "temple" of sorts tucked into one wall, with a few wicker chairs and a headless Greek statue. It looked like a lovely place to curl up and read on a sunny afternoon. We walked past apple trees with fallen apples all about and a sweet vinegary smell in the air.

As we got ready to leave, Nancy asked our host about the heritage center in town, which he said, was closed. Susan had wanted to search for a book she found in the smoking room. It was about the history of Cappoquin and the Lincolns were mentioned a lot. "Oh," he said, "I don't think that's one of ours - a guest left it. By all means, take it with you." Wasn't that sweet? Susan read to us from it. There are really quite a few Lincolns in the book. One of her relatives was an Intelligence Officer for the IRA.

We decided to take the car ferry across the Shannon rather than go back through Limerick, a saving of 85 miles. There were quite a few cars waiting and two cement trucks (or "ash" trucks). We wondered how we'd all get on board. There was an old lighthouse just around the bend, which we could see once we were on board. The Tarbot landing was where travelers from Dublin to Limerick would land back before the railroad. The ferry pulled in - there was plenty of room. We parked and went above to watch the river and sights roll by.

 

It was a blustery cold day, so we didn't stay long. The ride was fairly short anyway. Susan had purchased coffee and biscuits, since she skipped breakfast. She shared her biscuits with a pushy raven, who landed on the rail opposite her and begged nicely for his lunch. He came back for seconds, and she gave him a piece. He promptly dunked it in a puddle to soften it up and snatched up every crumb.

We bought a few items at the gift shop on the ferry landing and then started off along the scenic road to Ennis. Nancy had hoped to get us farther north, but the road detoured ("diverted") and led us a merry chase through the countryside. A note here about the roads: The national roads (N-roads) can be anything from divided "carriageways" to extremely narrow 2-lane roads with no shoulders. The R-roads, lesser routes than N-roads, twist and turn and are often not only shoulderless but with houses coming right up to the roadway. The walls are literally on the shoulder of the road. When not going through a town, the roads are lined by stone walls and amazing hedges. The hedges look to be ancient, some of them with several layers of plant life growing in them. We passed a hedge-trimming machine that had a wicked-looking disc spinning on the end of a long arm.

Some nature thoughts: Susan's cousin Siobhan identified the big black and white bird we had noticed the first day here. "Oh that," she said, "it's just a magpie." We noticed a few other birds that were probably terribly common but new to our eyes. We speculated that the hills around the Vee must be lovely in the springtime and wondered what plants and flowers were growing where the sheep were grazing.

We continued on to Ennis. Nancy had hoped to make reservations for the rest of the trip from there. The aide in the tourist office couldn't make any arrangements outside of her area of Shannon. It was cold and blustery, and we were tired. Nancy had her get us a place in Ennis, within walking distance of town center if we wanted to walk back in to shop. "Walking distance," means something very different to the Irish. We ate in a hotel restaurant and then went on to the B & B.

 

Mrs. Cahill was a bit harried and didn't really have time to chat, but she settled us into our rooms upstairs at the Railway View B&B. Nancy and Mary Jane were chilly, but Susan said she cooked (bed right up against the heater). Room temperature has a different meaning in Ireland. Mary Jane said she was expecting the castle to be cold, and it was the warmest place we stayed.

October 28 -- Saturday

Driving in the Rain

Nancy had thought she would drive to the Cliffs of Moher, but the rain started up again. Mrs. Cahill gave directions and said to drive carefully as the rain and leaves would make the narrow steep road slippery. Then she blessed Nancy with holy water from the font on the wall as she went out the door. Nancy changed her mind about the cliffs. Instead, we headed for Athlone along the N66 then N6. We thought we might stay there and if the weather was nice go on to Strokestown to the Famine Museum. The weather just got worse and we thought since the road was finally good we might as well go straight to Dublin. At least then we could visit the museums and library, even if the rain kept up.

We stopped for dinner at a castle. We received the best service there we'd had outside of the Glin Castle staff.

Remember how all the guidebooks said just stop at the tourist info places and make arrangements for the night? Forget that! We arrived in Dublin, parked and left Mary Jane shopping at the Blarney Woolen Mills and went to make reservations. There was not a room to be had in Dublin, even though Nancy was nearly willing to pay $400 to $500. The tourism aide searched all around and finally got us in at a B & B in Drogheda, 45 minutes north on the N-1. Susan did some souvenir shopping while Nancy waited endlessly to get the reservations and we went back for Mary Jane. Poor thing, it had been over an hour and she thought we'd gotten lost. It was miserably cold and raining and…. we lost the car park.

Don't ask. We finally found it and our way out of Dublin and headed north.

Nancy was getting pretty good at driving. She managed fine at night in the rain ("drive on the left, drive on the left.") We arrived at Orley House where we discovered there'd been a "misunderstanding" about the rooms. She'd reserved a triple for us rather than the double and single that the tourist center aide had requested. We were all so totally exhausted that we fell into bed.

 

October 29 - Sunday

Quiet Day in Drogheda

We stayed in Drogheda today. We had breakfast at the B & B and then drove around town a bit to find an ATM, since our host's credit card machine was broken. We ate lunch at the Black Bull where we had supper last night. We drove out to Newgrange but didn't do the tour since we weren't dressed to be out in the cold weather. Susan and Mary Jane bought Gaelic Christmas Cards at a little shop in town.

Susan and Nancy amused themselves throughout the trip by wandering into convenience stores, looking at the brands on the shelves. "Gripe Water" is the way to safely and gently break baby's wind. Dog and cat foods come in rabbit flavor - Phoebe would love that. They had sausage and black and white pudding. Nancy wished she could take some home. Wheetabix has a Quick Brekkers line. Cadbury is the Hershey's of chocolate in the UK. Nancy got hooked on Bailey's and decided to buy a bottle to take home. Susan made an attempt to take yogurt home, but it got totally smashed in the luggage. The hazelnut is awesome. Mary Jane said the Bailey's tasted better in Ireland than at home.

The time had changed back an hour the previous night. Susan and Mary Jane miraculously crammed all their stuff into their suitcases and the car trunk was packed at 4:15 p.m. Nancy and Susan walked down to the little store by the Black Bull to buy some pastries to have with our tea. We continued to be amused by some of the items in the grocery store. Some of the television programming and the strange mixture of shows also amused us.

We met our hostess's dog, Bonnie, a 9 year old white Golden Retriever. What a sweetie!

Part of the reason it was so hard to find a place in Dublin was due to the weather. The car ferries were not running over the weekend because the sea was too rough and a lot of people on holiday were stuck until Tuesday morning

We discussed what we'd enjoyed the most about our trip. Mary Jane listed Glin Castle and Bailey's. Nancy listed having Mary Jane and Susan all to herself for a week and Bailey's. Susan listed meeting her relatives, cows, water (coastal and rivers), brown bread, yogurt and Guinness.

 

October 30 -- Monday

Bonus Day and No Soup

We awoke at the B & B at 4 a.m. and ate the continental breakfast our hostess had provided for us. Just a quick trip back to the Dublin airport and we'd be on our way. NOT ON THIS TRIP! We dropped off our Dan Dooley car; the driver had to take us to the airport in it since he didn't have a key to get in to get the shuttle van. Just as well - we didn't have to move the luggage. We were all relieved to have made it to the airport in plenty of time to get through check in and all the fussing about. There had been severe storms in the London area during the night, so our flight was late leaving Gatwick for Dublin. It finally arrived and we boarded, just making it back to Gatwick for our 11:55 flight, which was delayed. For five hours. Then cancelled.

British Airways needs some lessons about customer service. We were pretty much kept in the dark about what was going on right up until the flight cancelled and weren't given much information after that either. We got to do a bit of shopping while waiting around. Nancy and Mary Jane had already bought Bailey's in Dublin. Susan replenished her reading material. Nancy got online at the airport cyber café to let everyone know we were running late. Nancy and Susan picked up some sandwiches and ended up making a dash down the stairs with our half-eaten meals when we heard an announcement about Atlanta, a false alarm. Mary Jane was afraid to go sit at a restaurant for fear we wouldn't hear an announcement.

As it was, the departure boards were not being updated after about 3 hours. Nancy happened to notice our flight finally had a gate number on another flight info board, so we dashed for the gate to sit until we were cancelled. We met a number of our fellow travelers, or at least got to observe them. There was a French couple who were taking everything in stride, slightly amused even; a very affectionate young gay couple; a woman traveling with 2 very well behaved young boys; and two female friends traveling together with a Bill the Cat doll. They suggested we call Clark Howard and he'd get us home for $1.25 plus a coupon.

The announcement was made that we would be taken by bus to a hotel in Brighton and brought back in the morning for a Delta Flight. Susan's seatmate was a young man from Glasgow headed for Cumming, Georgia; Nancy's was an English professor from UGA who's writing a book about Thomas Hardy; and Mary Jane's was an older man who hacked and coughed the whole trip.

We pulled up in front of the Royal Albion Hotel, right across the street from the pier. It's a very old resort hotel in the midst of a renovation. There were wet paint signs and construction going on in various wings. It was a very beautiful hotel though. We got a nice room; Mary Jane had her own room, both rooms with large windows being buffeted by the winds outside. The staff was overwhelmed but they struggled to do their best. Susan said she couldn't go to Brighton without getting fish and chips on the pier. Nancy walked over with her, since it was dark outside.

The waves were crashing on the beach, the wind whipping about us, darkness hiding the sea - it was fantastic! We'd love to go back to spend some real vacation time there. We played a quick game in the arcade and then Nancy dashed back over to the hotel to sit with Mary Jane in the restaurant. The menu looked great, though Nancy wasn't terribly hungry. She just ordered the soup and dessert (apple crumble and ice cream.) Mary Jane ordered the soup and roast beef. Since the waitress taking drink orders was overwhelmed, Nancy went to the bar for drinks. We waited, watching one harried waiter dash back and forth with courses. No soup yet. We finished our drinks, as Mary Jane gazed lovingly as soup bowls flew by our heads. Nancy went for fresh drinks and came back to discover Mary Jane's main dish and her own dessert at the table. No soup for us!

The hotel was a winding labyrinth that brought to mind the hotel in The Shining. It needed some tender loving care but it seemed to have been grand once upon a time. We called Linda and Zella to let them know what was going on. Whitney picked up the phone and asked if we were still in Ireland. When she found out we were in England she asked if we had seen Hogwarts. Nancy told her she thought she'd seen it from the bus. Zella said the news reports about the weather were pretty frightening, so we were glad we'd called to let them know we were okay.

Nancy also called Delta to try to reschedule Mary Jane's flight, since British Airways would take no responsibility for anything other than getting us to Atlanta. The Delta employee was extremely helpful and we arranged for Mary Jane to return to Pittsburgh at 8 the following night. Susan and Nancy curled up in our twin beds and read a while, then fell asleep to the sound of the wind and waves (and the water dripping from the window to the carpet).

 

October 31 -- Tuesday

Home Sweet Home

Susan declared her breakfast the best she'd had in our travels. We piled on the bus, after hauling our bags down two flights of stairs because the 3-person lift couldn't handle all of the luggage and people trying to get to the lobby. The Delta people at the airport were wonderful - very efficient and even apologizing for taking so long to process our tickets. We again sat in the center of the plane in a 5-seat row, with people on either side of our little group. There were 11 seats in our entire row. It was definitely a bit cramped but we had pleasant companions and our fellow travelers in front kept their seat backs upright, and the meals were pretty good.

We finally arrived in Atlanta and picked up our bags to go through Customs where there was a sweet little beagle on the job sniffing bags. Susan mentioned that the sniffing dogs at Gatwick had been Springer Spaniels - yeah, imagine Drusilla doing that. We dropped the bags off again to be taken to baggage claim. We picked them up for the last time and caught a taxi to Decatur.

It was 39 hours since we started home from Dublin.

Clock

Dublin time when you loaded this page. Refresh page to see current time.

The dogs nearly wagged their tails off when we got home. Susan started organizing and unpacking while Mary Jane and Nancy relaxed on the porch before making the trip back to the airport for Mary Jane's 8 p.m. flight. We had left her ticket in Decatur since she was going to relax a day before going home (ha!). Otherwise, we could have gotten her on a 5:30 flight. It was nice to have a little more time together, but we know she must have been beat by the time she got to Pittsburgh. After all, it was 3 a.m. in Dublin by then!

So we're all home again after our amazing adventure. And even more amazing, we all had a great time and want to go again.

Final note: Mom took a lot of pictures during the trip and, unfortunately, her camera was lost during the last leg of the journey. Nancy is making calls in hopes of locating it.

 

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