Tuesday 6/3/2012 Basically today did not start well, but it did finish well. Have you ever seen those poor people at the airport, unpacking and rearranging their luggage, so everyone can see their undies etc, well that was us at Gatwick. We were over what we had paid for checked luggage, so had to take out as much as we could out of the checked luggage and stuff it into our carry on, we still had to pay some excess, but it wasn't too damaging.
Nice short flight to Dublin, then after ringing the guy that we were renting the apartment from to arrange collecting the key, we sat in the bar at the airport for a while as it was too early to check in. We were originally going to catch taxi into town but we noticed while having a drink that there were heaps of buses that went into town, so when it was time to go we jumped on one of them. We got off a few blocks from our digs, walked there and met Kevin (Gilroy) who showed us up to the apartment. It was on the 3rd floor, 1 bedroom with kitchen, but best of all it was right in the middle of the town center, close to everything. And looking at the maps it looked like all the attractions we wanted to see we're in walking distance.
We did some shopping then went to the movies, which was just around the corner. We saw the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it was brilliant. Dublin city is gorgeous by the way.
We jumped on the Big Red Bus to do the usual city tour and get our bearings, fortunately as we were in the city center it was a short walk to the stop. The bus took us throu the most interesting sites to see and one of the first things we noticed was how much more colorful Dublin is to the rest of the UK!
We jumped off at Kilmainham Gaol for the tour of it, and had a bit of a win, it's always free to do the tour of the gaol on the first Wednesday of every month, and guess what, it was the first Wednesday of the month. We had a cup of tea and muffin while waiting for the tour to start, then had one of the worst tour guides we have struck for quite a while. Young woman, lovely Irish accent, but she talked very very quickly and didn't stop for breath so that you didn't have time to absorb and process what she was telling you before she moved onto the next subject. It was a shame because the history was interesting but she made it difficult to follow. But anyway, it was an otherwise good tour.
We then jumped on the local bus and made our way to the Guinness Museum for 7 stories of the history and manufacturing of Guinness, then at the end we got a pint of Guinness and the most spectacular view of Dublin from the top floor. Its quite a spread out city but doesn't have many high rises, but what is most distinctive is the unfinished construction sites, there are heaps of them that are either holes in the ground or half finished, sadly a result of the GFC.
We jumped back on the Big Red Bus and hopped off at the stop near our apartment, which just happens to be outside an Irish pub that had live Irish music and dancing every night. We stopped and had a drink and booked a table for that night. However the fact that the show didn't start till 9pm and we are normally in our PJs by then we went back to the apartment and had an afternoon snooze.
The food, music and show that night was fantastic, full house even for a Wednesday, we were both glad we had the nanny nap, as we didn't get home till well after midnight. Thursday 08/03/2012
We obviously started late this day as we slept in after our big night time adventure, we had both noticed just down the road was the exhibition "The Body", Marty wasn't keen, but I was so we went and saw the exhibition, interesting but probably not worth the €20 each to see it.
We then found our way on foot to the Jameson Distillery where they no longer make Jameson's but have a tour that explains all about the making of it. I got selected to taste test 3 different whiskeys, Jameson's, Johnny Walker Black and Jack Daniels. And I am definitely improving on my ability to tell a good scotch, the Johnny Black was disgusting and I have never liked bourbon anyway. Marty found himself a new t-shirt, then we headed back to the apartment for the rest of the day.
We legged it this morning down to McDonald's as we didn't have Internet access at the apartment but we needed to organize a hire car and accommodation, so we had breakfast and utilized maccas free wifi, booked a motel, but was reluctant to book a hire car over the Internet after the last fiasco in the UK.
From there we ducked into the Post Office, huge big historical building that is similar to the one in vietnam, probably built around the same era.i bought myself an little phone, was only €30, with some credit and it was a good thing I did.
We then walked over the river and had a look at the beautiful and massive Trinity College, a university built in the 1500 and still a uni today, but with many more modern buildings built onto it.
Then we walked to Dublin Castle which to be honest was a bit of a let down. So we walked back past Trinity College to Europe-car to get a quote, wasn't happy with their quote so went to the Gin Inn across the road from our apartment and used their free wifi, ended up using my brand new phone to arrange the hire car, but we had to pick the car up from the airport, because the hire car company in the city was closed on the the day we wanted to drop it off for St. Patrick's day celebrations. At least we had wheels and somewhere to,sleep for the. Ext couple of nights, but I don't like not having Internet access, because it limits my research ability to get good deals and find interesting things to see and do, decided to make sure anywhere I book in future has wifi.
We caught the bus back to the airport and found Budget hire car, nice enough bloke but tried to charge me twice for the airport tax, always pays to check! This time we had a Skoda, a Czechoslovakian brand but apparently owned by VW, nice little car, strange though it had more room inside than the Passat.
As usual I slept for an hour or so on the way to Cork, don't know what it is but put me in a car on holidays and I go to sleep. Driving through Ireland though, we couldn't believe that it is greener than the rest of the UK. We arrived in Cork early afternoon and when checking in to the gorgeous old Ambassador Hotel built 1800s, we were upgraded to an executive suite, no idea why, and certainly not going to question it, but we had a huge room, with a huge ensuite and to top it off a queen size bed. You have no idea how much of a benefit a queen size bed is when you are used to sleeping in a king size and most places in the UK have only doubles, it's heaven.
We settled in, then on the advice of the reception staff walked down to the town center and had a lovely walk around one of the busiest town centers I have ever seen, we could hardly move there were so many people. We stopped at a pub and had a drink and then caught a taxi back just in time to watch the Scotland/ Ireland union game in the 6 nations competition. Dinner was at the hotels restaurant, and like many places, it sounded good but turned out to be pretty ordinary, but fortunately or expensive. Sunday 11/03/2012
Being Sunday we slept in, knowing that not much was going to be open before 11 am and decided on brunch somewhere away from the hotel.
We found ourselves at Cobh (pronounced Cove), we decided to go there because it had a newly opened tourist attraction about the Titanic, but as it turned out it was also a gorgeous little seaside town, with houses all painted different pastel colors. So we found a cafe and had brunch, then did the Titanic tour, which was at the least informative. Cobh was the last port of call before it sank.
We then had a short drive and found the Cobh Historic centre, which is an old train station converted into an information centre and shops. Outside the centre is a statue do Mary who was the first immigrant to be processed on Ellis Island in Mew York, which thrilled us as it had only been a few weeks since we had been to Ellis Island and seen the immigration centre.
We just loved the little town so drove around it for quite a while imagining what it must have been like being on the tender and motoring around the island blocking he view out to sea, and seeing the magnificent Titanic parked awaiting your arrival.
Next stop was Blarney castle where the Blarney Stone resides. Now this was an ancient castle, all broken and fallen apart but still able to ascend to the top and if you so desire, kiss the blarney stone. We didn't as we believed it didn't need topping up just yet. The grounds were beautiful and such a pleasure to walk around. We even really enjoyed the poison garden which had loads of poisonous plants and explanations about the plant and how its poisonous. We had a drink at a pub in Blarney, then made our way back to the hotel, where we booked our ongoing journey.
That night we went back into the city centre to find a pub and have a toast for dinner (traditionally served in the UK on a sunday night) but couldn't find a pub ???.? So ended up at Scoozi a fantastic Italian restaurant.
As I have said before, Ireland is greener than the rest of the UK, and interestingly whereas the UK grow sheep (millions of little clean powder puffs on legs), Ireland grows cows. We were doing a bit of a touristy drive this morning on our way to Galway. Firstly we wanted to say we had been the long way to Tipperary, then Limerick, but also to have a pint in Pallasgreen, where Sean Ryan's family came from, and we did all three. We arrived in Galway mid afternoon, our accommodation was a lovely guest house, and we had a triple room, 2 singles and a double with breakfast €120 for 2 nights, don't know how they make any money out of it. We had a drive around the town, then later walked into the city centre and found the Chinese restaurant that tripadvisor had recommended and had a beautiful Chinese meal.
We had tried to find something on tripadvisor to do in or around Galway but couldn't find anything that really interested us, so decided to do some washing at a laundromat then go see a movie. Galway has only one laundromat and you can't do the whine yourself, you have to pay them to wash it for you. AND their cinemas don't open until 2.30pm. So we thought we would go for a drive to the apparent seaside and look at what everyone raves about. Had to buy fuel first and it cost nearly $100 to fill this little cars tank. Made us think twice about driving around aimlessly. But we went for a short drive and had a look at the seaside, sorry but we are a bit spoilt when it comes to seasides.
So basically we spent the afternoon planning ahead, booking accommodation and flights, watching tv and having a bludge.
Driving to northern Ireland I once again commented to Marty about the horrible housing estates all over the UK and Ireland, acres and acres of identical houses, even down to the same color, whoever came up with that concept should be shot, it is so ugly.
But what we did see when we came close to the ocean was what looked like a castle on a point. We veered off the main route to see if we could get a closer look, which we did and found it was actually a private residence. Just beautiful, seeing the big home sitting on the lush green acreage, overlooking the cliffs and crashing waves. Wow what a place to live. It turned out to be Classiebawn Castle on Mullaghmore Head, completed by the first Lord Mount Temple in 1874 and later descended to the Mountbattens. Now privately owned and not open to the public.
Driving in to Londonderry/Derry was spectacular, we hadn't seen houses built in this pattern in any other city. Our hotel was just inside the wall, the wall being the only intact wall around any city in Ireland and one of only a handful in Europe. As soon as we checked in we headed off to have a look at the city, then found a walking tour. This hour long tour took us onto and around the wall, gave us a view of the city and an insight into the history of Londonderry/Derry.
We didn't have to check out of our room till midday, so after breaky, I spent some time organizing things for the cruise, checking in and printing our tickets. We were able to leave our car in the carpark and see a couple of really interesting museums. Firstly the Tower Museum which had a huge section on the history of the the city, then 5 stories about the discovery of the Spanish Armada. We spent of a good hour and half there, then headed out of the walled city to the down town section. Here we found the murals, "you are entering free Derry " sign, then the Free Derry Museum. This was basically dedicated to the time of "The Troubles" and "Bloody Sunday", a very emotive but interesting explanation of the conflict between Catholic & Protestant, I finally had a basic understanding of it all.
We collected our car and headed to Belfast, but found a Tesco before leaving Londonderry so decided to shop there before getting to Belfast. We were staying in an apartment for 4 nights so had a fair bit to buy so we didn't have to eat out.
We arrived at our apartment block at about 5 pm, rang the manager, who advised us where our key was. I had requested a ground floor apartment as its difficult carting all our luggage upstairs, but we were unlucky this time, we were on they 4th floor and no lift. It was worth the effort though, attic views of Belfast, beautiful apartment with all amenities, and the good thing was, since we had done the shopping we didn't have to go out again tonight, just research the next exciting 3 days.
As usual we wanted to ride the Big Red Bus to get a feel for the place, so after checking the net and our maps we walked towards where we thought we could catch the bus, but got a bit lost. We asked a bus driver where we could get the Big Red Bus & once again we experienced that random act of kindness, happens just about every day. He told us to jump on his public transport bus for free, and took us to the bus stop close to where we needed to be to catch the bus.
We experienced something we have never experienced before with the Big Red Bus; there are always more than one company running a tour like this, but generally there is no animosity between them, whoever this time we had two company's fighting over our business. We explained to the other company that we were opting to take the original tour bus as we were able to claim a 10% discount because we had used them before. It ally was quite disconcerting to have them argue over us.
Anyways we did the full 2 hours of touring Belfast, and got even more confused about the conflict during The Troubles, they actually still have parts of the town that are fenced in and they close the gates at night...??????? When we asked people who was on the inside of the fence they all said, depends on which side of the fence you are on?
I dropped in to a hairdresser and got my hair trimmed and the hairdresser Patricia tried to explain it all to us but also said that most irish don't understand what happened and what is still happening.
The weather had turned really foul, raining endlessly, apparently normal for Ireland this time of year, we were both wet and cold so,grabbed a cab and headed home. At least,we had the pleasure of cooking another home cooked meal.
Today we knew was going to be a big day, St Patricks Day in Ireland. We caught a bus into town and watched the parade, then headed to customs house square where we watched several performances included Pure Blarney and the Red Hot Chili Pipers. A great day.
We then headed home and watched the final of the 6 nations match between wales and France and then Ireland and England.
The last couple of days the weather had been perfect and when we woke we decided go for a drive to Bushmill which is where the Giant Causeway is, a coastal rock formation that is a big tourist attraction. It was so sunny we even had to put sunglasses on while driving there. We didn't realize until we got there that it is also the location of the Bushmill Distillery, so we had to go and have a look. We didn't go on the tour just had a wander around the place and bought a couple of shirts.
We then headed to the causeway via some incredibly beautiful scenery. We parked and joined heaps of others in the walk and it was well worth the drive and walk. Quite a beautiful place.
We stopped in Bushmill for lunch then headed home.
Today was just spent returning the car to Dublin and preparing for our flight to Portugal, we had to make sure our luggage was the correct weight so we didn't have to go through the same as last time with Ryanair.