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Irish Roadtrip - The South

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It's the very end of May and I've returned from a five day road trip all around middle and southern Ireland. I was invited last minute by my Canadian roommate, Michelle. We shared a nice black Nissan with her good Floridian friend Kathy. Kathy had to drive the entire trip as the driver must be at least 23. Damn, I was only 6 months short! I sat in the back most of the time, partly to enjoy the view, partly because I was still getting to know them both but they were good friends.

We went everywhere along the coast, then cut inland a bit along the east, and finally just took the highway directly through the middle of Ireland from Dublin home to Galway. Here goes the tale:

Day 1.

We picked up the car around 6pm and drove due south through Ennis and Limerick to Tralee. Ennis is a cute little town, worth seeing, and near the Shannon Airport. Limerick was once one of the most dangerous towns to live in, apparently lots of knife fights, but now it's much cleaner. Like many irish towns there's a river running through it, and it has a regular larger irish town feel. Tralee is where we spent the night in a quiet hostel. The night porter was a fun, young man named Fergus. Michelle and I watched a movie with him before crashing for the night. I personally didn't like Tralee, at least at night. The town isn't much to look at and everyone out for evening fun looked about 14 years old. But in the morning we stopped at a delicious local bakery and I bought an apple pie that lasted me a few mornings. The pic below shows Kathy on the left, Michelle on the right.

Day 2.

We drove along the western peninsula to Dingle. This tiny town is considered one of the biggest tourist attractions, though honestly I don't know why. Yes it's pretty, it's in a great location overlooking the Atlantic, there is beautiful scenery outside of it all along the peninsula, it's the farthest west city in all Europe...okay, but we didn't spend more than a few hours around it. Dingle itself is quite small. It rises up a hill from the ocean. The harbor is full of fishing boats and charges 10 to take a boat that shows you Dingle's dolphin. His name's Fungi. He is ENORMOUS, a very fat dolphin. He actually has fat rolls! We didn't take the tour, but we saw pictures. Whew!

South from Dingle we started our drive of the Ring of Kerry. We passed Portmagee and the Skellig Islands. We would have stopped but it was too late in the day to ferry out to the islands. Go, if you ever come here. We looked at the pictures and videos of the Islands in Portmagee and, wow. The Islands are home to puffins as well as other local birds, and the Skellig Michael has a friary dating from the 12th Century. It's supposed to be a great place to picnic. The pic is Portmagee.

The Ring of Kerry was beautiful and rather dangerous. The 'highway' is narrow and on one side you have rock fences and the other cliffs dropping to the Atlantic. It's all quite hilly and the roads curve everywhere. I thought we might bite it a few times. This evening we made it to the other end of the Ring, the city of Killarney. I LOVE County Kerry. Killarney is a town at the east end of a huge National Park full of a Fen forest, mountain ranges, mountain lakes, and old ruins. Beautiful. We were late, so checked into the Railway Hostel, a clean place that names instead of numbers it's rooms. We had the Oyster Room. We went on a mini pub crawl but didn't find a place we really liked.

Day 3.

We walked Killarney a bit then drove into the Park and viewed Ross Castle, a main park attraction. The castle had once been a small but true fortress. Now all that's left is the main tower/hall. We pressed on and stopped off the main path at a waterfall. What a beautiful place to camp! Did I mention I loved County Kerry? You'd have to see it to understand, but we took this small trail that was half-submerged along a stream (everything truly is wet in Ireland - little springs spewed out of the rocks everywhere along this grotto) to the three or four meter high waterfall. Everything was green and quiet. Lovely.

And then we stopped in Blarney. Yes, I kissed the stone. Blarney Castle is very cool. It no longer exists; that is, it is gutted out through the center where all the roofs probably caved in. But you can walk up the walls and smaller staircases. My camera died right before I kissed the stone. I don't know if it's true if locals piss on it. It seems difficult since it's at the very top, it's protected, and you kiss it's underbelly - you have to lean out away from the wall on your back!

Next we drove down to the south coast and to Cork in hopes of seeing a football match. But Cork is quite big and the stadium was a little difficult to find, so we missed kick off. I didn't think much of Cork, the same way I didn't think much of Dublin, but we never got out of the car so I can't make any real judgements. We drove on east through a large port town called Waterford. But all three hostels there are full of refugees so we had to keep going. We stayed in Wexford, and we're glad we did. It's a great little place on the southeast coast! I didn't get any pictures of it...It's town centre is built atop the original streets when it was a viking town, so everything is very narrow and somewhat winding. Everything in the center is busy and fun, full of shops and pubs. And there is a very long, wide, clean boardwalk, or strand, along the harbor that we walked a few times. We stayed in a small hostel and wandered most of the evening. Ate at a great italian restaurant then went drinking. Good fun.

Day 4.

We woke up and drove a little farther south over a long bridge from Wexford. We stopped at a popular, thick sanded, high duned beach called Curracoe. Worth stopping at, as well, it is where they filmed beach scenes for Saving Private Ryan. After exploring for a half hour we drove on up the east coast. We passed unexpectedly through my current favorite Irish village called Inistioge (inis-teeg). It has something like 121 people. It rests along a wide river and an ancient forest. To reach it you cross an old looking brick bridge. It has a few small, green squares with statues despite being so small. We only stopped to use restrooms, so I didn't get any pictures, yet again...These below are the Carracoe Beach.

Today we only made it as far as Kilkenny, a largish town with a big, important castle. Owned by a few different families, it's most important were the Butlers. The most interesting room was the Long Room, where originally the owners had a private painting gallery. The pictures were all auctioned off but now the city is trying to restore the room. The ceiling was created to look like a viking and gaelic room. It is dark wood painted and carved with druish animals and knots. Again, no pictures allowed inside, so I bought a postcard.

That night we stayed outside Kilkenny in an actual little castle renovated as a hostel. It's run by an old couple who also keep geese, chickens, horses, and a little dog named Petra. There we met some Australian visitors who we invited out to drink when they came to Galway, Clint and Dave. No pics of them though, either (I'm starting to see a trend here).

Day 5.

Time to get home! We drove up to Dublin so Michelle could gather some old things, and saw for the first time the reason there aren't cops on the roads. Apparently everything is monitored by cameras, and they just send you speeding tickets by mail. But we didn't get in trouble, as far as I know. We spent the entire day driving. From Dublin it takes three hours to drive back to Galway, and we stopped now and again to drive slowly through a few towns on the way. It was all interesting, but I was as ready to get back as Michelle and Kathy.

And there you have it!

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