Yes – it’s true! I’m not waiting two months to write another post. What???
I had so much fun last week posting, I thought, “What the heck!”
Plus, I have to report about the third leg of AGMA’s great travel adventure in October to Ireland.
WARNING: This is a loooonnnnggg arse post. But there are pictures at the end as a reward.
I LOVE Ireland. This was my 9th visit to that beautiful country.
Did I mention that I love Ireland?
My good friend Lisa (from St. Louis) is very well traveled. She used to travel extensively to Asia on buying trips for her jewelry business. And she has been to Africa multiple times. Plus lots and lots of other places.
Let’s put it this way – she is a member of a travel club where the basic requirement for membership is to have visited 100 different countries or more.
But….she had never been to Ireland.
She said she was saving it for when she gets older.
Did I mention that Lisa is 81?
Knowing about AGMA’s many trips to the Emerald Isle, she asked me several years ago if I would be her tour guide. And she offered to pay for basically the entire land portion the trip.
“Absolutely, I’ll be your tour guide!”
AGMA has been an unofficial tour guide in Ireland for 2 other friends, but they didn’t offer to pay my way. And it was kind of a lot of work escorting them…
So hell yes, I’ll be her tour guide!
It only took us three attempts to get there.
They say that you never really know somebody until you travel with them.
AGMA’s happy to say that Lisa proved to be a much easier travel companion than my other two friends. She’s a Buddhist so has this Zen attitude toward life and problematic situations. She never got flustered about much of anything. She was a ‘roll with the punches’ type travel companion. I loved that.
But as we all know, we all have our quirks. Even AGMA (although I am actually practically perfect…)
Lisa is hard of hearing so she brought her hearing aids. But she rarely used them. And when she did, it was only one in one ear, and only for about 20 minutes at a time. She said her ear got itchy??
Even with her one hearing aid in place, she had a terrible time understanding the Irish accent. Which was pretty much everybody we talked to on the trip.
AGMA has honed both the skills of speaking very loudly as her 2 sons were growing up (VERY loudly at times!) and, on my previous 8 trips, understanding an Irish accent pretty well so it all worked out. Literally, I was her interpreter, often repeating in my loud voice and Midwestern non-accent, what was just said by the Irish person talking to us.
You do what you gotta do.
And she ate. She ate a whole lot. She ate throughout the day.
She is pre-diabetic and felt that she needed to keep lots and lots of protein snacks handy, so our little car was full of bags of peanuts, almonds and cheese sticks.
She would get up in the middle of the night and eat. She would eat after she got up in the morning. She would eat an hour after breakfast. She would snack right before lunch, in mid-afternoon and before dinner.
And she would eat a normal sized breakfast, a huge lunch, and a decent sized dinner.
AGMA certainly understood that she needed to do what she needed to do, but at the end of the trip, she told me that she thought she gained some weight.
No sh*t Sherlock.
While planning the trip, I tried to see what she might be interested in seeing. Multiple times. I figure a good tour guide needs to find out what her clients wants to see and do.
She just said she trusted me to decide what she should see and do.
Hmmm….no pressure there…
I booked some day tours before we left. But after we got to Ireland, it turns out she did have some preferences (of course) and they were things that needed advanced reservations to see/do. Plus most restaurants required reservations for dinner.
So I was on my phone and laptop everyday trying to make arrangements for the next day. It was a bit stressful, but most of the time, AGMA prevailed. After all, it was kind of my ‘job’, so it was all good.
After we had a joyful rendezvous at the Dublin Airport on day #1, we picked up our cute, little, automatic transmission rental car with zero deductible CDW insurance. That’s the ONLY way to go in Ireland when renting a car and driving on the left. A knocked off side mirror and flat tire on previous trips taught AGMA to get full coverage. Always.
Our first three nights were spent in Waterford city at the really beautiful Granville Hotel. It was probably our favorite hotel on the trip because it’s an old school Irish upscale hotel. On the other hand, we had gray clouds and drizzle the entire time we were in Waterford.
But, seriously, it’s Ireland.
Because Lisa had jet lag, we took it easy the first few days. We went to New Ross to see the Dunbroody Famine Ship, tooled around Wexford city, and drove to the Hook Head Lighthouse, all on day #2. Day #3 was a walking tour of Waterford, a visit to Waterford Crystal and a nice dinner in an Italian (??) restaurant.
We left Waterford city on day #4 and stopped for a few hours for a private walking tour of Kinsale on our way to Killarney. Miraculously, while we were in Kinsale, the clouds gave way to sunshine and blue skies. And I had my first piece of banoffee pie of the trip. It was a glorious day!
The sunshine followed us to Killarney and decided to hang around for a few days. We stayed at The Ross Hotel. It was interesting. On the outside, it looked like an old school upscale Irish hotel. On the inside, it was an ultra modern Irish upscale hotel. Think Andy Warhol with lots of neon thrown in… Interesting.
Our bus tour (cuz AGMA won’t do that drive) around the Ring of Kerry was spectacular. This was my 3rd time to do the Ring tour and this was by far the best weather ever. Stunning.
The next day (day #6) we visited Muckross House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney House, and took a jaunty jaunting car ride. AGMA was happy none of them required an advanced reservation.
Day #7, we were on the road again – to Galway. The “must see” stops on this drive are the Cliffs of Mohr and The Burren. The blue skies went bye bye, replaced by high clouds. But no rain. That’s a very good thing.
While AGMA was planning the trip, Lisa mentioned that she’d like to stay in a B&B. But I’m not really sure she meant it… When we got to our wonderful B&B in Galway, The Stop, she got a bit out of sorts. It wasn’t in the center of town (which she prefers), but was only a 7 minute walk to the start of Quay St. And our room was up one flight of stairs and was pretty plain with a tiny shower. She didn’t complain, but she said she was feeling grumpy.
Gotta respect a woman who is upfront with her grumpiness. She was very gracious in her grumpiness.
However, between Russell, the charming owner of The Stop, and the absolutely phenomenal breakfasts (seriously delicious!), she ended up loving our B&B. Whew! And she loved the energy of Galway city.
Day #8 was a full day tour around the Connemara with a 3 hour stop at Kylemore Abbey. The skies were still cloudy, but the sun would tease us now and again.
Our big thrill on day #9 was going to Ashford Castle in Cong. Ashford Castle is one of the top hotels in the world (yes -the WORLD), and costs like a kazillion dollars a night. I actually stayed there for 2 nights back in 2006 on my first trip to Ireland. It was expensive then and dominated our lodging budget (1/3rd of it) for our 2 week trip, but it was nothing like it is now. $$$$$$. AGMA’d have to win the lottery to stay there now.
So the only way to see the castle if you aren’t staying there (cuz they have two gate keepers on the way in, plus a doorman) is to have afternoon tea, which is what we did. AGMA felt like freakin’ royalty! Maybe illegitimate, but still royalty.
Day #9 was a travel day to Donegal town. On the way we stopped in Knock. It’s sort of Ireland’s version of Fatima or Lourdes if you’re a religious sort. Google it. Then a short stop at the Belleek fine china factory in N. Ireland. Despite Brexit, there are still open borders between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
AGMA fell in love with Donegal a number of years ago when Hubs and I stayed there for 2 nights. I’ve been trying to get back ever since. It’s remote, wild and gorgeous! It doesn’t get very many tourists because it’s tucked up in the northwest corner of the country. Sadly, we could only spend 2 nights there on this trip, and the weather was getting ready to take a turn for the worse. While Lisa was napping after we checked in (she generally napped everyday), I walked around town snapping pictures while sky was blue and the sun was shining.
We stayed at The Abbey Hotel on “The Diamond” (which is actually a triangle??) in the center of Donegal town. It is a lovely hotel with a great, lively bar. More old school Irish pampering? Yes please!
Day #10 was a private walking tour of Donegal town, then a drive to the majestic Slieve League Cliffs. These cliffs are twice as high as the Cliffs of Mohr and are stunningly beautiful. We got there just in time. About 10 minutes after we parked, the rain rolled in and low clouds totally covered the cliffs.
We still had to do Dublin, so on day #11 we headed east. We stopped in Castleblayney in County Monaghan for lunch with an Irish friend I knew in Atlanta in the late 2000’s. She and her American husband moved back to Ireland about 6 years ago. The view from their home is spectacular!
Later in the day, we motored into Dublin Airport, did our pre-booked, 35 Euro each COVID tests for our return to the US (ouch), and dropped off our rental car. AGMA does NOT drive in Dublin. It’s a rule.
We stayed at The Arlington Hotel at O’Connell Bridge. I’ve stayed there before – it’s just an okay hotel. But it has the all important location, location, location! Most sights are in easy peasy walking distance.
On day #12, we did a walking tour of Dublin, then went to Bewleys on Grafton Street for lunch. We had tickets to the Guinness Experience at the Guinness brewery in the afternoon, but Lisa wasn’t feeling it, so I ended up doing it myself. LOVE that pint at the top of the brewery with the 360 view of Dublin!
Day #13 meant it was time for the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour which, in Dublin, is great. The HOHO tours in most cities have pre-recorded audio during the tour that are sort of meh, but, in Dublin, each bus driver actually narrates the tour. And they are normally very funny!
There was soooo much in Dublin we didn’t see, but it was the end of the trip. And Lisa was getting pretty tried. So we packed up our suitcases the morning of day #14 and headed to the airport to fly home with our negative COVID tests in our hot little hands.
Speaking of hot, did AGMA mention that temperatures were in the 60’s the whole time we were in Ireland? What??? Yes! It was unseasonably warm. I didn’t wear my sweaters, but, honestly, that was okay by me.
Finally, AGMA has to give a shout out to The Palace Bar in Dublin’s Temple Bar area. Temple Bar is normally the 20 somethings place to drink heavily and party into the night. The Palace is at the very beginning of Temple Bar on eastern end of Fleet Street. The quiet end of the street.
It’s a bar. They serve no food. And the most interesting folks hang out there. I stop there every time I’m in Dublin.
On this trip, we met friends Jim and Jerry, two Irish undertakers (seriously), who were meeting up for the first time since COVID started. They had evidently been at The Palace for a while before we got there, because they were pretty pickled when Jerry came over to talk to us. We all talked and laughed and made some pretty tasteless jokes about their profession. It was probably our most fun evening in Ireland!
AGMA’s already planning my next trip to Ireland. I want to spend most of my time in County Donegal. With a day or two in Dublin so I can go back to The Palace.
Anybody want to join me?