Oh my gosh. I love Ireland. There is not one place in Ireland that we visited that wasn't beautiful. The people are friendly and we have had a wonderful time. When we arrived, we picked up a hire car and drove through Dublin centre - with a few circles due to one-way roads!!, stopped for an Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, white pudding (like Fritz) and Black Pudding - basically haggis- and on to Glendalough where we bought a small bottle of water for about $5. There were a variety of walks around a lake there so we chose the 9 km walk that went along the lake past mines, up the hill past a waterfall and along a boardwalk back to the lake. We met a couple of local ladies about halfway, who were really friendly and walked the rest of the way with them. When we got back to the first car park we bought a coffee and found out that the man who had just left, but was the attendant at the gate, possibly had lurchers, and was a deer hunter, so we decided to stay the night in a local B&B so that Sam could meet him the next day. That night we went to a pub for a Guinness and Irish Stew followed by Irish Coffee. The next day Sam dropped me at the local Community Centre to use the only Internet in the village while he went to meet his new friend. He was actually invited to go deer hunting 4 days later, but I was not keen to spend out whole time in Ireland in the 1 place, so he missed out!!! Sam managed to locate his missing diary in the Denver airport, and thus began a series of very frustrating calls to Fedex and the airport, which continued over a few days, many minutes, and much money!!!! We planned our next day's trip every night, and never followed our plans due to finding off track roads and interesting places. These included crossing a bay on a ferry on the way to Waterford, and travelling the Ring Of Beara rather than the Ring of Kerry (we were told that this was a tourist route, full of buses and not worth it) We saw coastal villages, cliffs, crossed a mountain pass where they used to take coffins up from 1 side to the top, then pass them over to carts from the next county to take back down the other side, learnt about the game of Hurling, and listened to some men speak what we assumed was Gaelic (as we couldn't recognize a single word), but found out was English. Near Limerick, we stayed on a dairy farm in an old 3-story house and made plans to go to an Irish Night at a tourist place the next day. However, the next day, we picked up a hitchhiker whom we drove to his brother-in-laws house, which took us out of our way, and on to a much more interesting part of Ireland. He advised us to not go the tourist concert, but to go to Galway instead for music. On the way we saw a bunch of surfers at a coastal village, found a small music village where we had an interesting latte, missed the Cliffs of Moher in the fog, (but saw them a few minutes after we had passed the place where you had to pay $16 to see them!!!) and found an 8 km walk in a place called Ballyvaughan. That night we stayed in Galway and found an amazing pub with live Irish traditional music. We got there at just the right time to get a seat in a booth right next to the small stage, which we shared with a group of Austrians. The place started to fill up then, and it was standing room only. The Austrians were a great bunch and we had a lot of fun with them. The Irish group consisted of 3 guys about our age, 2 guitars and an accordion, and they were fantastic. The concert lasted about 2 ½ hours. The place was filled with young people from the Uni, and they sang along and danced with the music all night.
Enough wandering at leisure now: it is time to get serious and head for Belfast. We headed north to Sligo and then west. The only hint we got that we were out of Ireland a couple of hours later, was a change in road signs from km to miles and unknown signs. We also discovered that we now needed Pounds rather than Euro. We stopped in a small town to get a coffee, and had to go to a bank top change Euro into Pounds. Sam tried to get the teller into a political discussion re the Irish / Nth Ireland situation while people queued behind us - almost as good as asking Germans if they watched Hogan's Heroes!!
Driving into Belfast was like arriving in Denver or a smaller version of LA. We found a B&B in downtown near the uni, near where we had to return the car, wandered the streets for a while and found a pub with good, cheap meals. Here we met some lovely local people and discovered, while discussing the peaceful, safe feel of the town, that there had been a car bombing that day!!!
The process of returning the car, getting to the docks and catching the ferry was smooth. I was amused though after being told that my hand luggage bag that I take as cabin luggage on planes, was too big to take on the ferry, to watch a whole Russian Orchestra board the ferry with cellos!!!
Sam slept the whole 2 hours ferry trip while I used the Internet - so cool! It was sad leaving Ireland, but we are ready for the next adventure.