When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 8: The Feast of Kings

We had a rather leisurely start to our day as we actually had the first few hours to ourselves.  I decided to take another walk around Killarney.  Specifically, I had wanted to get inside the nearby Church of Ireland to see what it looked like and to get some photos.

Eventually it was back to the bus where we headed to the tiny village of Adare, famed for its thatched cottages.  Again we were given a few hours to explore.  Adare marked the only place where I actually bought an item for myself.  The visitor’s center had a tiny bookstore and I found a book of Irish ghost stories which I bought for myself.

Aside from that I spent the time exploring the small museum inside the visitor’s center, visiting a nearby cathedral and cemetery, walking around the park across the street, and walking along the main street (pretty much the only street) examining the various thatched cottages.  I also bought a small cup of ice cream which was some of the creamiest ice cream I had tasted.

Once our time was up we were off to our final destination of the trip:  Limerick.

We took a little tour of the city and saw St Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s (as in the archenemy of Robin Hood) castle before checking into our last hotel.  We ended up going full circle as we stayed in another Clayton.  The building was actually a unique piece of architecture as it was designed so that every room had a view of the river.

At this point, I needed some time to myself so I ended up going for a walk around the neighborhood.  I stopped at a nearby convenience store where I sampled some chili flavored Doritos.  Ireland appears to be tamer with its spices as these Doritos were actually quite tepid.  After a walk to clear my mind, I went back to the hotel to get ready for the final optional excursion.

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This night found us headed to Knappogue Castle for an authentic medieval banquet.  The performers dress up in authentic period costumes and the evening began with a mead reception in the royal hall.

Mead is fermented apple and honey and it is a very sweet drink.  However, it also tastes very light and tame which disguises the fact that it is a very potent beverage.  Ten minutes after drinking it, I actually felt a buzz coming on.  Our tour director regaled us with a story about a previous tour where an Australian gent drank two jugs of the stuff at the banquet.  He passed out during the dinner and there was real fear that he would have to be taken to the hospital.  The gentleman regained consciousness and managed to get back to the hotel to sleep it off.  According to our tour guide, the gentleman was quite red faced the next morning and his wife didn’t speak to him for the remainder of the tour.

The night’s entertainment was a history of Ireland presented through music, song, and dance.  It was a great performance with a fabulous four course meal consisting of a seasoned tomato and basil soup, homemade bread, salad, chicken, and dessert.  It was a grand night and it seemed to end all too soon.

Once more, it was back to the hotel to ready ourselves for the final day.

When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 7: Sailing into Mystery

Breakfast at the Trident was the only one that differed from the other hotels.  They did have a continental breakfast buffet with some cold cuts where I sampled smoked salmon, another stalwart of Irish menus.  But at this hotel, we were also permitted to order something off of the menu.  So for this breakfast I ordered Eggs Benedict.  Unlike the American version which is served on an English muffin with ham, this was served on toast with bacon.  But delicious no matter what way you slice it.

This day was the quietest that we had for the trip.  After checking out of the oh so wonderful Trident, we hopped on the bus and headed off to Bantry Bay where we were going to take a ferry ride over to Garinish Island.

Bantry Bay is known for its warm waters.  So warm are the waters that it often attracts seals to the outcroppings and we saw a plethora of these magnificent beasts as we slowly sailed over to the island.

Garinish Island was once the private paradise of an extremely wealthy family called Bryce.  It’s known for its lush gardens and opulent pieces of architecture.  Another fun fact was that the Bryce family was very close friends with Agatha Christie, the acclaimed mystery writer.  In fact, the Bryce House still exists on the island and it holds some of the original editions of Christie’s work.

I spent quite a while simply soaking in the beauty of the island as you can see from the below photos.

I did find the Bryce House, but had just missed the only tour I could have taken.  However, my parents did make it on the tour, so I entertained myself by making goofy faces at them whenever they passed by the windows.  Yes, I admit it.  I’m a big kid at heart.

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Bryce House

After a few hours on the island, we returned to the mainland and continued our bus tour along the Ring of Kerry which featured some of the prettiest scenery I think I’ll see this side of heaven.

We ended up stopping at a place called Ladies View which has some stunning views of the Lakes of Killarney.  Once upon a time, the queen of England and her husband had lunch at this spot.  Not only did we take a group photo here, but Mom and Dad bought some paintings from a local artist.

After our brief stop, we continued journeying to our final stop, but were met with a surprise on the road.  As we drove, we suddenly saw a group of people gathered on the left side of the road.  We all craned our necks to see and we saw a car precariously perched on its front after having gone over a cliff!!

Luckily, nobody was hurt.  The driver and passenger were staring forlornly at their car while the Garda (Ireland’s national police force) drove up to see what they could do.  A story in the next day’s Irish Times told the story that the driver had accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake which sent the car over the cliff.

In the afternoon, we reached the town of Killarney where we checked into the Scotts Hotel.  As fabulous as the Trident was, I rather liked the Scotts as I actually had my own alcove and finally had a bit of privacy for writing, though I was unable to make use of that.

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Scotts Hotel

After an hour of rest, we headed out to the corner where we took a jaunting car ride or a horse and buggy ride as we’d call it here.  These rides are famous for the jarveys (drivers) who provide a witty and entertaining stream of talk on the rides.  Ours was similar to Don Rickles.

We rode through the Killarney National Park and made a brief stop at Ross Castle during the drive.

My dad and I fell into conversation with our jarvey who told us about the education system of Ireland when we spotted some children walking home from school.  School in Ireland begins at 9am and ends at 4pm.  All schools have a uniform code and their students dress very elegantly.

As the drive continued, our jarvey asked us where we were going to eat and I mentioned that our tour guide had mentioned a place called The Meadows.  Our jarvey snorted and said it was a tourist trap that overcharged for its food.  Given my years of travel, I seized on the moment as I know the locals always know the best eateries and asked what he would recommend.  He thought for a moment and said there was a place called the Failte right across the street from our hotel.  It was a family run place and served good food at a good value.

So at dinnertime, we went to the Failte and this was my favorite meal of the entire trip.  We were served shepherd’s pie which is a lamb stew served in a mashed potato crust.  This was so good and so warm and filling and I was so glad to try it once.

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The Failte

With full stomachs, Mom went back to the hotel while Dad and I walked about the town.  We ended up stopping in a grocery store as Dad was looking for some aspirin for Mom’s sore feet while I continued my search for Mountain Dew.

I should explain.

For my regular readers, you may remember that on my trips to Japan, I had a positive knack for locating Mountain Dew for my friend, David Sundberg, who is a Dew junkie.  So I decided that any international trip I now take will now include a search for the beverage as a running gag/challenge.  I learned from our jarvey that Mountain Dew is called Poteen in Ireland, so I went to the soft drinks and began looking for Poteen.  But, lo and behold, I found the honest to goodness real thing, though their Mountain Dew had the qualifier of Citrus Blast and I immediately took a picture for Dave as proof of my victory.

Dad found some aspirin so we went back to the hotel and called it a night.