Category Archives: Ireland

May 15: Dublin

May 15

Dublin and County Meath

We started the morning meeting up with a small group of people. We had booked a private tour that would take us to the Boyne Valley outside of Dublin. The first part of our tour was around Dublin and to the see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Traffic, however, was not with us! Both our driver, Tony, and our guide, Colum, agreed that this was the worst they had seen in a while. On the way, we drove past a famine ship and a group of statues that commemorate the famine refugees.

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The line at Trinity was long and what we really wanted to do was head to the Boyne Valley. So, we meandered our way through the streets, pass the Irish Parliament where we saw Gerry Adams being interviewed, through the Georgian section and several squares and parks and, of course, the Guinness Factory before finally making our way to the Hill of Tara (and I saw the infamous “Viking Tour”).

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Before embarking on our tour, we had some lunch at the little restaurant that is next to the site. The home-made brown bread was delicious! It was actually warm enough for us to have our lunch outside, where we were serenaded by a murder of crows “getting busy” in the trees around us.

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After lunch, it was time to see the Hill of Tara site. Our guide was very knowledgeable and also directed us to feel the energy of the place to get a sense of what it was really “like.” It was really nice to have someone understand that there can be an energy to a site like Tara. There was even a tree that had many ribbons tied to the branches – magical offerings! I loved the site and the time we took to see the different areas such as the Hill of the Hostages and, of course, the Lia Fail.

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Because it took so long to get out of Dublin, our driver gave us some bad news – we would not be able to get into Newgrange. But he and Colum had a few other places lined up for us. These included an Abbey, Trim Castle and the village of Kells to see some Celtic Crosses.  While on the surface, this does not seem to make up for missing a trip to Newgrange, these sites were really nice – again being able to sense the energy and even look for a ghost or two at Trim Castle. At Trim Castle, we had another guide that took us through the castle. He has spent some time in Toronto, so we had lots to share while walking up the narrow, circular staircases.

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The village of Kells has another monastery and graveyard, which is where there is a collection of Celtic crosses. There were some interesting buildings as well, including a separate spire and a tower. While we were there, a man was out walking his dog through the graveyard. When I first saw the dog, I thought he was a typical black lab – then he stood up. He legs were only about 3 inches long, yet his body was the size of an overweight lab! He was very friendly and didn’t mind me laughing at him, as long as I also starched his ears!

We then headed back to the ship, getting back with thirty minutes to spare. After a quick stop at our room, where I discovered that my room key was de-magnetized again, we went to dinner. We sat at a table with three women from Florida. Dinner included shrimp cocktail, roasted garlic soup, braised short ribs, a frozen chocolate praline torte and an Irish coffee.

This marks the end of a long day with lots of walking!

May 13 Cobh, Ireland

May 13: Cobh, Ireland

Why should anyone know anything about the port of Cobh, Ireland? Well, it is one of the largest and deepest natural ports in Europe. Second, two famous ships sailed into infamy from here – the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915 and the last port of call for the Titanic was Cobh. Then there is also a little thing called the Irish migration. Most of the Irish immigrants left Ireland to places around the world from the port of Cobh. Cobh is also a short train ride to Cork and the gateway to Blarney Castle.

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My mom and I did not visit any of these places. We went, instead, on a tour to Lismore, the Vee and Cashal. Our tour guide was a charming woman named Olivia. As we drove through the countryside, she shared stories and information about the countryside as we drove from Cobh to our first stop.

Lismore is a charming town, the highlight is the Lismore Castle. It is also the winner of the “Tidy Town” award. Yes, it was very “neat.” The castle is stunning (even though you can only see it from the outside) and there is a St. Carthages Cathedral (who also has a sacred well – I have no idea who St. Carthages is…). There were also come public gardens that had interesting decorations, such as a carving of a cauldron with a salmon leaping from if that was at the base of a statue of St. Padraig – he may have thought he chased the snakes out of Ireland by bringing Christianity to the island, however snakes – or the Old Beliefs have a way of burrowing deep within a people’s psyche.

Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle

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After Lismore, we drove through the Irish countryside, and headed though a place known as the Vee. It is named that because, in the distance, the place between the two mountains looks like a vee. We were a little too early to see the ground blanketed with wild rhododendrons, but the buds were on the branches, so I can imagine what it will look like once they all bloom – a “sea” of pink blossoms! We also passed many herds of cattle, horses and sheep (a couple of the sheep even blocked the road a bit, so we experienced an Irish traffic jam).

Our next stop was the town of Cashal which sits at the base of the Rock of Cashal. There is a visitors’ centre and this is where we have a bit of lunch – soup, backed chicken with mashed potatoes and sliced carrots and sherry trifle. Of course, there was Guinness (which tastes completely different from what we get in North America).

Rock of Cashal
Rock of Cashal

The walk to the top of the Rock of Cashal was very steep, so mom decided to hang out at the gift centre while I worked of lunch by walking up the hill.

The Rock of Cashal has a long history. This was the seat of the Kings of Munster, and the place where Brian Boru was crown the King of Munster. It eventually was given to the Catholic Church. Most of the buildings that are part of this legacy: The Cormac Chapel is the oldest and best preserved Romanesque-style building in Ireland and has some interesting touches. I liked the frescos that has a blue colour made from lapis lazuli (the only place they could have gotten this pigment in the 11the century was Afghanistan). There are many heads that decorated several of the arches. Each one is different and included ten that would said to depict enemies of the bishop that built this chapel.

Next there is the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Gothic building that was built not only for worship, but for defense with a secret path that could be used to defend the building. Unfortunately, this did not prevent Oliver Cromwell’s followers to massacre the congregation and set fire to the building. (Note: one of the side altars has a carving of St. Catherine).

Next to the cathedral is a square building that was the bishop’s residence. By the time the cathedral was built, the bishops were not only religious leaders but also secular ones. While this residence was strong and could be defended against people, a huge windstorm blew a huge chunk of masonry from the building. No one has seen any need to replace it.

The next building is a round tower. There are several round towers in Ireland.  One of the purposes of these buildings was to house bell that should warn people. With a view that overlooked the surrounding area, it is easy to see how a tower with bells could be a great way to warn people of any type of trouble.

The last building is the only one that has been finished. It was built to house boys who were learning to be members of the choir for the cathedral.

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After visiting the Rock, we headed back to the ship, making it with only ten minutes to spare before we were scheduled to leave.

Once back, mom and I had trouble using our key cards to get back into our stateroom. So, we had to take care of some business – fix the cards, get my internet connection setup, and find a replacement watch for my mom (hers died). We decided to opt out of a long, more formal dining experience and at more sensibly at the buffet (as mom says “she ate too many vegetables!”). We then took in one of the production shows before I sent her to bed and I went I search of the perfect margarita. While I found it, I did not find my perfect bar, bartender, or wait staff. I will have to try again tomorrow.