Monthly Archives: May 2014

Laptop missing

To everyone waiting on the rest of our pictures, it’s going to take a little longer. I accidentally left my laptop on the plane when we got off in Newark, NJ. We spent most of that day trying to track it down to no avail. I still haven’t heard anything and I’m fearing it is lost or stolen. I still have the pictures on the camera cards but will need to pull them off and upload them. For those people from our trip, feel free to email me at john@burnshome.com.

Day 9 – Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, and Shannon

“That it seems that it may turn out to be It feels that it will undoubtedly It looks like a rather blustery day, today It sounds that it may turn out to be Feels that it will undoubtedly Looks like a rather blustery day” – A Rather Blustery Day, Winnie the Pooh

Today truly was a rather blustery day.  The Cliffs of Moher are positioned on the west coast of Ireland on the North Atlantic Ocean.  The Cliffs are a classic shot in photos and videos of Ireland.  Mom and I were excited to get to enjoy the views.  On the way to the Cliffs, it was raining and cold still so we were all hoping that it would clear up so we could enjoy the view.  We rode a ferry across the River Shannon, in which dolphins were sighted during the crossing, and then continued on to the Cliffs of Moher.  The rain stopped, but the wind made up for it. It was cold and windy as we walked up the stairs to the top of the cliffs where an old castle ruin stood.  We got about half way up and Mom was miserable.  I suggested we go back down to the visitor center because the wind was blowing her all over the place.  She defiantly said, “I want to go to the castle!”  So, we did.  It was just a tower at the top of the cliff with a small archway on the side.  When attempting to walk through the archway, it focused all of the wind and even made me feel like I was going to fall over.  I got Mom around to the back side of the tower so she could rest out of the wind for a few minutes before we made the trek back down. I had an empty cup from hot chocolate that I had put in the pocket of the book bag since there were no trash cans on the cliffs.  It blew out and swirled all over the place.  I gave up trying to catch it until the wind caught it and right inside the cup and show it like a rocket toward the wall where a pregnant lady on our trip was posing for a picture.  BAM!  It popped into the wall just a few feet from her.  I chased the cup for the next couple of minutes while Mom laughed at me in her little wind shelter.  I took several pictures of Mom laughing so hard she was crying.  On the trip up the cliffs, the wind was to our backs.  On the walk down it was blowing straight into our faces.  It made for some unsteady walking so I had Mom hold onto me while we walked down so she wouldn’t lose her balance and fall.  We finally made it down to the visitor center out of the wind to rest.

Day 8 – Killarney and Fog

Day 8 started with the traditional breakfast followed by a 30 minute horse and buggy ride through the National Park.  The National Park is thousands of acres of countryside that is untouched.  It was beautiful with some old ruins, lakes, deer, and an island along our route.  We finished our ride at the outside St. Mary’s Cathedral which was also the starting line to some sort of marathon so it was crowded with TV cameras, runners, and sponsor tables.  We hopped on the bus toward our next destination.

We arrived at a museum for a place called Skellig.  On two small islands on the edge of the Atlantic, monks had settled and built places to live out of piled stones.  They also built massive staircases on the mountainous islands our of stone.  The structures were built out of piled rocks with no mortar and they’ve held up for over a thousand years.  When we arrived at the visitor center, it was extremely foggy, windy, and rain had started to fall.  We went inside to tour the visitor center and watch a movie about the islands.  They also served us lunch.  I had the lasagna while Mom had the beef stew.  For dessert I had a warm apple pie (with ice cream, of course!) and Mom had a chocolate cake.  It wasn’t part of our itinerary, but on a sunny day you could take a boat out to the islands and walk the staircases and view the ancient buildings.

We got back on the bus and headed for the Ring of Kerry, which is a peninsula on the southwest of Ireland.  We made a quick stop at a shop that gave us some Irish coffee.  Mom and I had the non-alcoholic version.  Outside the little shop was a nice stone bridge and stream so we used that as a quick photo opportunity.  The Ring of Kerry is said to have spectacular views.  We wouldn’t know because the fog descended and rain picked up even more.  We stayed in the bus the rest of the day except for one quick stop at a bay side that had a nice view despite the fog.  The weather got worse and we just rode around until we arrived back at the hotel.  There was a road rally race going on in the area with suped-up import cars and those were constantly driving by us on the road on the way out of town to their next race destination.

When we got to the hotel, it was about 5 pm.  We got our stuff to our room and met some of the other people from our trip.  We headed to a restaurant called the Porterhouse that was a quaint little restaurant with very good food.  After eating and talking for a while, we went to finish up our shopping and then back to the room for shut eye.  Tomorrow we’re off to Shannon, Ireland for the last day of our tour.

Photos of today’s activities (limited by the fog) are at
 http://www.flickr.com/photos/94310362@N03/sets/72157644102725399/

Day 7 – Sheep Dogs and Tea, the Blarney Stone, and Killarney

Day 7 kicked off with the usual Irish breakfast in our hotel.  It was cold and a slight rain was coming down while we boarded our bus and drove through the beautiful Irish countryside.  We stopped along the way for a quick photo of the countryside and an old castle in ruins.  As we drove through the rural areas, it was amazing just how green everything was.  We turned down a small driveway and drove up to an old farmhouse.  Our group was led into the farmhouse and into a room with a fireplace, seats, and tables with fine china set out for tea.  We sat and enjoyed tea, coffee, and homemade scones.  Our hosts also provided homemade whipped butter cream, raspberry jam, and some sort of jam made from a black berry without any seeds.  It was amazing. Everyone had their cup of tea and a scone.  Of course, I had 2 cups of tea and 6 scones.  I didn’t want any of it to go to waste!

After we had warmed our bodies and filled our tummies we went back outside.  The farmer then gave us a demonstration of how his collies would herd and drive the sheep wherever he commanded.  When we first went out, the sheep were 300-400 yards away in another field.  They all stood in a group grazing.  As the farmer walked out to the field, his two dogs that had previously been wandering around on their own checking us out were pinned to the farmers heels.  He told the dogs to go get the sheep and the immediately bolted toward the other field.  Initially, it looked like they were running right past the sheep but they looped around and as they got close to the herd, the sheep began to run toward the opening between the two fields.  Anytime a couple sheep started to break away from the pack, one of the dogs would just come around to that side and the sheep would get back in line.  It was amazing how quickly and easily the entire herd of sheep came up to the near field and gathered in the corner of the fence.  This experience was one of the favorites and most memorable from the trip.

The group boarded the bus again and off we went toward Blarney Castle.  If you’re not familiar with the famous Blarney Stone, you can look it up on Wikipedia to read the details.  However, the important thing to know is that it’s a tradition for everyone who visits Ireland to go kiss the Blarney Stone.  Legend says that if you kiss the stone, you’re given the gift of eloquent speech or the gift to gab.  I know, everyone is praying that Mom and I did not kiss the stone!  Before I get to that, what you need to understand is where the stone is and how you go about kissing it.  The stone is built into the top of the Blarney Castle.  It’s over 4 stories tall.  To reach the top, you have to climb an ultra-narrow spiral staircase made of stone.  The staircase is about 3 feet wide and the treads of the steps start at 0 inches on the inside and are only about 10-12 inches on the outside.  It was cold and rainy so the steps were slick also.  We climbed the stairs because Mom was determined to get to kiss the stone.  When we got to the top we had a beautiful view of the surrounding area.  As we walked around the top ledge, we came to where the stone is mounted.  There is a large opening in the stone floor where it meets the surrounding stone.  If it weren’t for 2 steel bars, it would be possible for you to fall through and plummet the height of the tower to the ground.  The Blarney Stone is mounted as the bottom stone under the surrounding edge.  In order to kiss it, you have to lay on the floor on your back and lean your head back off the edge.  At this point, you’re looking down over 4 stories while holding onto a couple of vertical bars.  A man who works there helps hold onto you as you shimmy back so that your lips can reach the stone.  All the while you feel as if your balance is going to shift and you’re going to slip right through the two horizontal bars beneath you.  Mom did not like the setup at all but she bravely laid down and kissed the Blarney Stone!  There are a couple of pictures in today’s gallery but she also purchased the one that they took of her that shows her kissing it much better.  I followed and kissed the stone myself.  You all better watch out because if Mom and I couldn’t talk before, we sure can now!

After the Blarney Castle, we drove on toward Killarney until we arrived at the Killarney Plaza Hotel and Spa.  It’s a beautiful hotel and we got a huge room with a full bed and a twin.  Mom let me have the full.  We got settled for a few minutes and then headed down for dinner.  As an appetizer, we both had Shrimp Scampi.  For our main course we roast beef and vegetables.  I quickly polished off my 2 pieces of beef and Mom only at her one.  Again, not wanting anything to be wasted, I ate her other piece.  Another lady at the table had a half that she did not eat, so I obliged and took care of that as well.  For dessert, they had an amazing dessert buffet with 5 options.  Two options were different forms of chocolate cake with a variety of sauces to drizzle on them.  Next was a passion fruit mango dessert that was shaped like a jello mold but was light and delicious.  There was also a berry cheesecake and a strawberry and whipped cream dessert.  Mom had the chocolate cake and I had…umm…all 5!

Following dessert we went for a quick walk through the town to get acquainted with the area since we’ll have free time in Killarney tomorrow night and we’re on our own for dinner then.  There is some kind of rally race in town and apparently they have groupies that are teenage/twenty-something boys with modified import cars.  As you can probably guess, they were cruising the strip all night speeding along trying to show off their rides.  It was very annoying.  Plus, gas costs around $8 per gallon here so I can’t imagine letting that car run for a second more than it absolutely needed to!  After our walk, we were tired so headed to the room to get some shut eye before tomorrow.

Pictures from today are at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/94310362@N03/sets/72157644487377061/

Day 6 – Dublin, Trinity College, and Canal Dinner Cruise

Today was probably one of the best days of the tour so far!  We got to sleep in a little bit and then hopped in the bus to head to a quick tour of Dublin.  We stopped at Trinity College and got out for a guided tour of some of the campus with a Trinity professor.  We got to go in and look at the Book of Kells (an old, ornate copy of the Gospels).  We also got to view the beautiful library that is full of ancient books.  I took lots of pictures in there and would’ve spent much more time had we not had a full schedule.

Next, we took a short bus ride over to the Guinness factory where they brew Guinness beer.  We got an informative tour as to the process that it takes to brew the beer as well as the history of the company.  Arthur Guinness signed a lease on the space for the Guiness factory for 9,000 years.  The Guinness family was also responsible for leading the restoration of a cathedral in the area years ago as well.  We received some recipes on how to cook with Guinness beer that looked very yummy!  At the end of the tour, everyone received a free pint of Guinness.  Mom and I got sodas instead but it was fascinating watching how the bartenders pour 3/4 of the beer and let it set so that the nitrogen rises and makes the foamy head on the beer.  Then they top it off and make a pattern on top of the head in the shape of a shamrock or a cross.  It was cool to watch.  The area where they serve the beer is on the 7th floor in a circular glass room overlooking all of Dublin.

We were given a choice to spend some free time in Dublin or head back to the hotel for a while.  Mom and I decided we would stay in the city and go see St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We walked through the shopping district on our way and I found some amazing ice cream!  They had all kinds of flavors.  I got a big cone with 3 scoops.  Along the walk we saw a few neat things: The Gotham Cafe, a pub called Captain America’s Dublin, St. Andrew’s Street, and a Disney store as well.  Some break dancing street performers did a show that was pretty neat so we stood there and watched for a that before continuing on to the cathedral.

As we walked onto the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it was a beautiful park with flowers, benches, and lots of grass.  We took some pictures outside and sat on a bench for a few minutes before heading inside.  Inside was beautiful stone and stained glass.  It was a little strange because most of the plaques, statues, and things we saw around the chapel turned out to be fairly modern in recognition of people who contributed money to maintaining the cathedral.  We walked around and looked at the different rooms and the stained glass in the cathedral and took some pictures.  We left early to make sure we got back in plenty of time and ended up getting back 20 minutes before the bus so we walked through a few shops while waiting.

The bus picked us up at 5:45 pm and we headed to a canal dinner cruise.  The canal is pretty small so I was wondering what the cruise would be like. It turned out to be a highlight of the trip.  The boat was very nice and fit everyone quite well.  The food was fantastic.  Mom and I both had vegetable soup as an appetizer, Guinness beef stew for our main course, and then for dessert I had warm apple pie with ice cream and Mom had a Bailey’s cheesecake.  Throughout dinner we were able to wander up to the deck and watch as the captain manually opened and closed the locks to allow us to move up the canal.  We probably only went about a mile or two in a little over an hour.  The canal is about 100 miles long.  It was really neat watching how the locks worked.  There was also an older Irish guy on the boat with a guitar who sang traditional Irish songs over dinner and then performed some songs that we all knew so we could join in.  Everyone on the trip talked favorably about this cruise and I’d highly recommend www.canalboatrestaurant.ie if you’re ever in Dublin, Ireland.

After dinner we went back to the hotel to get ready for bed.  Breakfast at 7 am tomorrow and then off to Blarney Castle and Killarney.

Pictures from today can be viewed at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/94310362@N03/sets/72157644525631893/

Day 5 – Ferry from Scotland to Ireland and the Titanic Museum

Our 5th day of the trip we had to get up early to get on the road in order to make it to the ferry on time.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect but it turned out to be awesome!  The ferry service is through a company called StenaLine.  Their ship reminded us of a smaller cruise ship – it wasn’t that much smaller though!  Our tour bus pulled in and there were huge tractor trailers, cars, other buses, motorcycles, and campers on there.  We went up the stairs and it went from a floating parking garage to a cruise ship!  There was a restaurant, spa, shopping, lounge areas, a kid’s play area, arcade, movie theater, and other cool stuff.  It was a great way to pass a couple hours.  I looked up the pricing and it wasn’t too bad at all if you’re ever looking at touring Scotland and Ireland.  They ferry to other locations as well.  We ate lunch on the ship and then when the time came, we got back on the bus and drove off onto Ireland!

Shortly after pulling off the ferry, we pulled up to the Titanic museum.  It just opened in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s voyage.  The building was built to be as tall as the ship would have been and it put things in perspective.  The experience was very interactive and it taught us a lot.  The building is built on the spot where the Titanic was originally constructed.  Outside of the building, steel poles stand where the frame was erected to build the ship.  I went out and walked some of that space to get a feel for just how big the ship was and to take some pictures.  We would highly recommend any visitors to Belfast to visit the museum.

When we left the museum, we got on the road toward Dublin.  Mom enjoyed looking at the countryside and listening to our guide.  I’m still not adjusted to the time yet and fell asleep on the road.  On our way, we stopped at a gas station that had a Burger King inside.  I have been craving some ice cream and Burger King had something similar to a McFlurry that had Kit Kats in it.  I went right up and bought one.  As I was finishing the ice cream, someone else from the tour was walking around with hand scooped ice cream that was made locally in Ireland.  Of course, I couldn’t pass that up so I had to get some of that too!  Back on the road toward the hotel.

As we drove through Dublin, we could see that the tide was out and the level that it dropped was amazing.  Our guide said the difference between low and high tide is around 14 feet!  It left hundreds of yards of “beach” exposed that would be covered completely by water when the tide came in.  We sat through some traffic and then pulled up to the Royal Marine Hotel.  It’s a beautiful hotel right on the Irish Sea.  We were on our own for dinner tonight so after calling home we decided to go downstairs to the pub in the hotel for dinner.  I had Fish and Chips and Mom had a club sandwich.  I’m pretty sure it had bacon on it and she loves that here.  It looks more like a slice of ham and is pretty salty, which she loves.  We’re going to get some rest tonight and we don’t have to be out of the room until 7:45 tomorrow!  We’re touring Dublin tomorrow and going on a cruise.

Photos from today can be found at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/94310362@N03/sets/72157644415286436/