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Showing posts from October, 2014

Ireland 2014 - Dublin 1

An absolutely brilliant day in Dublin!

We began on the bus with local guide Neave, who - with the terrific driving skills of Frank - showed us the highlights of the city.

We visited Dublin Castle, seeing its impressive style and hearing some history from Shiobhan.  A surprise visit to the Royal Church (perhaps Chapel) was very nice.  The carved woodwork depicting important Irish family names and their crests were a highlight.

The off to Glasnevin Cemetery - where Daniel O'Connell and Michael Collins are buried, along with many others.

Then it was an afternoon of free time in the city.  Some took in theatre, many did some shopping, and others enjoyed more sites of Dublin - Trinity College, St Patrick's Cathedral, The National Gallery.....

Once again, the weather was pitch-perfect and cooperated with sun all day!

Ireland 2014 - Belfast to Dublin

We departed the famous Europa Hotel (the most bombed hotel in Europe) and had a bus tour of the city with local guide Ken, who formerly worked in journalism during the troubled times.  Ken recommends the BBC documentary about the Europa.

Belfast was once the linen capital of the world and was the only Irish city involved in the industrial revolution - with famous inventors and Nobel prize winners all residing in a portion of the city.  We heard about the Crown Pub, which many had visited the night before!

Belfast was Base 1 Europe during WWI and lots of US soldiers traveled through here.  In fact the British trained the first US Rangers in Belfast during that time.  We saw City Hall, the Opera House, Queens University and more....  we even drove down the Golden mile - although no shopping from the bus.

We also drove through the walled portions of the city and heard about the conflicts, the issues, the 'fit for tat' killings and saw the murals - which change regularly to reflec…

Ireland 2014 Day 5

Another magical day in Ireland, well, Northern Ireland!

We began with a sobering visit to the Free Derry Museum.  The guide on site was John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed in the 'Bloody Sunday' ordeal.  Michael was just seventeen - the youngest of the 14 killed.  The museum is clearly a labor of love to John and all the family and community members involved. 

We then headed out along the coast and had a fantastic photo stop at Dundee Castle before reporting for our tour of Bushmill's Distillery.  The oldest operating distillery in the world, it was a very interesting and informative tour which concluded with a taste and some lunch.

Then it was off to Giant's Causeway which was magnificent!  Frank told us about Finn McCool and the folklore story (vs the scientific story) of the Causeway's history.  Just as we boarded the bus for departure the sunny skies gave way to clouds and some rain - but we're inside for the remainder of the day, so it worked out…

Ireland Day 3 & 4 - Full Update

Today we welcome guest blogger Rosemary who recaps our past two days of adventure below.  Monday, October 6th
 Off to Killary Lakes catamaran cruise for a tour of Ireland's only fjord with narration and complementary Irish coffee.  An "iffy" weather forecast resulted in intermittent rain, thunder, lightning and even brief hail, but once again, sunshine when and where we needed it most.  The upside of all these intermittent showers is rainbows multiple times a day.  (What's the plural of rainbow? Radiance rainbows. We're getting used to seeing double rainbows.). Learned a lot about aqua farming (mussels, oysters), Ireland's neutrality in WWII and both British and German UBoats seeking shelter here, livestock and potato farming.

Richard's lecture today was on the history of education in Ireland, everything from the hedgerow schools, to the influence of the Catholic Church for better or for worse and subsequent reforms, including standards setting, relevant voc…

Ireland Day 3 & 4

Technical difficulties have caused a delay in a complete post today but all is well and we're enjoying the Irish hospitality. Yesterday we traveled to Connemara again for a catamaran tour of Killary Harbour followed by a visit to Kylemore Abbey (pictured above) and enjoyed our last evening in Galway City.

Today we packed up our belongings and headed to Derry City, but not before stopping at Ballintubber Abbey in County Mayo and Drumcliffe Churchyard in County Sligo. We had a mix of a few showers and some clear skies today, but overall had great weather - which we've learned isn't always easy to come by!

More information will follow in the coming days! We're all very excited about the Museum of Free Derry tomorrow and a trip to the Giant's Causeway.

Ireland Day 2 -

The title of today's entry could be: Aran Islands, weather does not cooperate but we still had fun!

We enjoyed a great breakfast and headed out for an hour drive through part of Connemara to get the ferry to Inishmore - the largest of the Aran Islands.  We knew the weather report was not in our favor so the boat ride out was not good for many riders.  Others commented that 'folks pay good money to go on a ride like that in Disneyland!"

We boarded shuttles that drove us across the island.  All our local drivers were knowledgeable and fun.  Only 800 people live on the island.  Most of them are employed in the tourist industry - 1500 visitors each day during the summer!

One of the stops along the way was 7 churches (actually only 2).  Some wondered out in the drizzle - only to have the skies open into a downpour once they were a hundred yards from the bus...dry off time!

We then went to the most important site on the island - a fort which was located 20 minutes up into the h…

Day 1 - weather

We expected typical Irish weather.  Sure enough a light rain met us at the airport.  But was followed by periods of sun and a beautiful sunrise.  Ann Rocha captured a stunning picture at breakfast!

The entire day proceeded to fall into place perfectly on the weather front...lots of rain en route to the Cliffs and then, as we arrived, the rain stopped and the sun came shining through.  In Galway, we had a bit more rain when we had a break for lunch.  No rain slowed down Brian and his walking tour though.  Who knew our sunglasses would be out most of the day!?!?

Hoping tomorrow brings the same love from the weather gods. :)

Ireland 2014 - Day 1

About half of us met on campus and took the shuttle to the airport.  We then met up with our traveler friends and set out for our flight to Shannon.  Arrival at 6:00am (but really midnight) was tough on our systems but we began with a stop for full Irish breakfast - yum.

We met our tour director/driver Frank and the Harlows caught up to us (they flew in a day early!).  We then headed north to see the Cliffs of Moher.  We learned that Shannon airport was the first to offer duty free - and if you know some of us travelers, we are grateful :)

Frank also shared some basics - pedestrians may or not have the right of way, Ireland (including Northern Ireland) has a population of about 6 million.  Dairy and livestock are top industries.  We heard a bit about the great famine and about the Celtic Tiger (more to follow).

If you've been to the Cliffs of Moher or seen the pictures, there is a brick structure out on the end - this is O'Brien's Tower.  Erected and named after a local wh…