A Travellerspoint blog

Dublin to Waterford to Killarney - Friday, 5 August 2016

Visit Ireland's oldest city, Waterford. Visit Blarney Castle and view the legendary Blarney Stone.

all seasons in one day 18 °C

Hotel - Killarney Plaza Hotel, Kenmare Place, Killarney, County Kerry, Killarney - Room 420

We left Dublin at 9 am for the two hour drive to Waterford. The famous Waterford Crystal factory is no longer in operation, closing down in 2009, but there is still plenty of Waterford Crystal on sale, but it is very expensive.

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We met our local guide Tom, and went on a walking tour through the streets of Waterford for about an hour and finished up at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Waterford is the country's oldest city. It was founded by Vikings in 853 AD and parts of its ancient walled core remain. They were driven out by the native Irish in 902 and re-established themselves in Waterford in 914.

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Reginald's Tower is the oldest urban civic building in Ireland and the oldest monument to retain its Viking name. It is believed to be the first building in Ireland to use mortar.

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The first time the Irish flag was flown was in Waterford. The green represents the Catholics, the orange the Protestants and the white, the peace between them.

Phil and I noticed a shop called Button and Co, so we had our photo taken outside and had a chat to the woman running the shop. No Button relation in there.

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We had a nice lunch in a cafe with a very nice gift shop attached. I bought a couple of Christmas decorations.

On our way to Blarney Castle, our lovely guide Tom, stopped the bus, crossed a busy highway, just so we could taste Wexford strawberries and raspberries. They were delicious. Thanks Tom!

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Along the way to Blarney Castle we stopped Dungarvan Bay for a panoramic photo. It was a lovely view. Phil was having a bad hair day!

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We arrived at Blarney Castle and it is just lovely. The grounds and gardens are quite spectacular.

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To kiss the Blarney Stone, you have to walk up about 125 steps inside the castle. It is a narrow, winding, steep staircase and if you suffer from claustrophobia, don't go. Phil has a sore calf muscle so he didn't want to walk up all those steps, so I tagged along with Susan and Chris and Gary and Jane. I was hoping I would be able to climb 125 steps without killing myself - well, it was a breeze. There was such a long queue to get to the top to kiss the stone, that we only ascended about two to three steps at a time, so by the time we got to the top, we were all feeling great.

To kiss the stone, you have to lie on your back, grab hold of the two handles and then the assistant moves your body outwards and you tilt your head backwards to kiss the stone. It was slightly nerve wracking, but was all over so quickly, that it is okay. I am so glad that I have done it.

Kissing the stone is supposed to give you eloquence. Its powers are unquestioned but its story still creates debate. Some say it was Jacob's pillow, brought to Ireland by the phophet Jeremiah. It became the stone used as an oracular throne of Irish kings. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny. When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent four thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, the stone was split in half and sent to Blarney. Some years later, a white witch saved from drowning, revealed its powers to the MacCarthys.

There is a stone there,
That whoever kisses,
Oh! He never misses
To grow eloquent.

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By the time we came down from the castle, we only had 15 minutes until we had to board the bus, which meant we didn't have much time to wander through these beautiful gardens. This is a lovely place to visit and well worth the effort to climb to the top and kiss the stone!

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After about two hours driving through beautiful green Irish countryside, we arrived in Killarney and check into our hotel. We just had time for a quick cuppa before we dressed for our group dinner in the hotel. We had dinner with Margaret, Peter and Shayne from Victoria and Karen and Lew from Brisbane. It was a nice group and the conversation flowed.

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I have made contact with Byron and Annie and we are planning to have dinner together tomorrow evening.

Posted by gaddingabout 00:36 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Dublin - Thursday, 4 August 2016

Explore Dublin and visit the Guinness Storehouse. Scenic Freechoice - view the Book of Kells. Tonight dine in an authentic Irish Pub

all seasons in one day 18 °C

Hotel - Shelbourne Dublin Heritage, 27 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2

Today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 95 today.

Our local tour guide is Adele. We commenced a bus tour of the city area of Dublin. Dublin's population is one and a quarter million but the city area is quite small and you can walk from one side to the other in about 10 minutes. There are quite a few streets in the inner city with rows and rows of lovely Georgian houses.

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George Bernard Shaw lived in the inner city and skipped school a lot as he didn't like it. He said he learnt more about life from the streets than at school. When he died, he left some of his estate to the National Gallery and every time My Fair Lady is played somewhere, they still receive royalties.

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There is no high rise in Dublin.

We drove down a small street and in a rather insignificent church are the relics of St Valentine. Now on St Valentine's Day, all over the world, people give each other cards and flowers, but in this church, people who are having problems with their relationships, line up to touch his casket and then write their relationship problems in a book in the church. Some of these can be quite long and of course, the next person to write in the book will take time to read your problems too! It is a Carmelite Church.

Christ Church was built in Dublin in 1038.

Catholicism is the predominate religion in Ireland these days but there is no catholic cathedral in Dublin. There are plenty of catholic churches but no cathedral.

These ivy buildings were built by the Guinness Family as welfare homes for the poor. The Guinness Family put a lot of their wealth back into the community. After a mother has given birth to her baby, she is given a drink of Guinness. Also, Guinness is also handed out in nursing homes in Dublin. Sounds like my kind of place. I am getting quite a liking for a pint of Guinness. Phil doesn't like it.

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Phoenix Park is a huge park on the outskirts of Dublin. It is larger than Central Park in New York. It has a huge herd of deer in it. At 1760 acres, it is the largest city park in Europe. It consists mostly open grassland. It is also the location of 'Aras an Uachtarain', the residence ofcthecIrish President, and the Dublin Zoo. The Irish Prime Minister is more important politically than the President, but has to find his own home to live in!

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After our driving tour of Dublin, we stopped at the Guinness Factory for our guided tour. It was like a mad house. We were allocated a Guinness Guide and given a head set. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there - some on guided tours like us and some on their own. The noise was incredible and it was very hard to hear and comprehend what our guide was saying. She explained the process for making Guinness but it was very hard to concentrate with all the noise and all the people pushing and shoving.

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We arrived in the tasting room and all had a small taste and then we went to the room where we learnt how to pour a Guinness. It is quite an art but we mastered pouring a pint and then it was ours to drink. We took it to the top floor for a panoramic view over Dublin but it was so crowded that we decided to go a few floors down and have lunch. We had lunch with Shelley and Ed from Perth.

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Back on the bus and we drove to Trinity College to view the Book of Kells. But to our dismay, it was closed until 4.00 pm. They turn the pages periodically to protect them from the light and today was the day they were doing it. For security reasons, they never announce when they are going to do this, so we went to the National Museum specifically to view the people who were found in the bog. They were very well preserved, especially one man who still had a head full of red hair.

This is quite a small museum (as museums go) but it is easy to view all the exhibitions - Prehistoric Ireland (archeological riches of the Prehistoric period in Ireland, the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages); Ireland's Gold (Bronze Age gold objects); The Treasury (development of Irish art from the arrival of Celtic peoples); Kingship and Sacrifice (an exhibition of two Iron Age bog bodies that were found at Olderoghan, Co. Offaly and Clonycavan, Co. Meathin 2003); Ceramics and Glass from Ancient Cyprus; Viking Ireland (the Viking Age in Ireland from the first recorded Viking raid in 795 AD to 1170 AD); Medieval Ireland (from the English or Anglo-Norman invasion of the mid 12th century to the Reformation in the mid 16th century); Ancient Egypt and Clontarf 1014 (the best known battle in irish history but one of the least understood).

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Phil, Shayne and I then walked up the street to take a photo of Miss Mollie Malone

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and then back to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The queue was huge but moved quite quickly. It was an amazing thing to see. It was discovered, preserved in a bog. The cover has never been found and they suspect it was probably made of precious jewels, and is possibly buried in some Viking's tomb as they used to bury their treasures with them when they died. The Book of Kells is Ireland's greatest cultural treasure and is the world's most famous medieval manuscript. It contains lavishly decorated copy in Latin of the four gospels. It has long been associated with St Colum Cille who founded his principal monastry on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in about 561. The Book of Kells was probably produced early in the 9th century by the monks of iona, working wholly or partially at iona itself or at Kells, county Meath, where they moved after 806 AD, when Iona was attacked by Vikings in a raid which left 68 monks dead. The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security during the Cromwellian period. It came to Trinity College through the agency of Henry Jones, after he became bishop of Meath in 1661. Of course, no photos were allowed.

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Once upon a time, Trinity College was only open to protestants, not Catholics. If a Catholic wanted to attend Trinity, they had to get special permission from the Archbishop, but any religion can attend Trinity today. But the university is of such a high standard, that they only take students with the top marks. Trinity is Ireland's oldest university, founded in 1592 and was attended by some of Ireland's greatest writers, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

We then walked upstairs to see the Long Room - a huge library. Amazing. They add a kilometre of shelves every year to house the books. This room had a lovely feel to it. It is nearly 65 metres in length and houses around 200,000 books of the library's oldest books. Marble busts are placed down either side of the room and the collection began in 1743 when 14 busts were commissioned from the sculptor Peter Scheemakers.

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We walked back to the hotel and were glad to have a little rest before we had to meet for our welcome dinner at The Merry Ploughboy Pub. It took us about half an hour in the bus to get there. It was on the outskirts of Dublin, near the base of the Wicklow Mountains and was in a suburb of Dublin called Rockbrook.

Everyone in our group, especially the ladies, made an effort to dress nicely for the evening. We sat next to Ed and Shelley and Margie and Alby and we were right up the front near the stage.

We had a nice three course meal and I had a pint of Guinness. I am liking this very much!

An Irish band called the Merry Ploughboys entertained us with Irish songs and ballads. They were really great. They also sang "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" which is quite an emotional song about young Australian soldiers fighting and being wounded in Turkey in 1915. It was so nice of them to sing an Australian song. One of the band members played a weird instrument that had bellows, pipes and a keyboard but was played with the hands and wrists and elbows, not blown into like Scottish bagpipes. It is a very difficult instrument to play and not many people can master it.

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Then we were entertained by traditional Irish dancers and River Dance dancers. They were great and were local boys and girls.

We all had a great evening and are now packing bags as we are moving to Killarney tomorrow.

Posted by gaddingabout 14:28 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Dublin - Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Meet and greet our fellow travelers this evening

semi-overcast 18 °C

Hotel - Shelbourne Dublin Heritage, 27 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2 - Room 767.

We had a great night's sleep last night and woke up naturally. Rest day today while we wait for Phil's luggage to arrive from Paris. We checked with the Conceirge on our way to late breakfast and he was able to confirm that the bag will be here by lunch time. Fingers crossed.

We had a delicious breakfast of eggs benedict in The Saddle Room, which is a very tastefully decorated dining room. We are trying to "spot the Aussie" before our meet and greet function this evening. They should all be starting to arrive by now.

We spent a lazy morning in our room - Phil reading the paper and I tried to catch up on my Spain / Portugal blogs. Phil's bag finally arrived at 12.15 pm. Everything seemed intact but one of the zipper ends was missing.

We then walked up the street to the shopping centre. I am trying to buy Maxfactor lipsticks that I buy in Australia for about $25 and since I discovered that they are made in Ireland, I thought I might get them cheaper here. Well, they don't have the sort that I use in the shops here. Drat!

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We had a bagel and coffee lunch and walked back to the hotel through St Stephen's Green, a magnificent park opposite our hotel.

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I am a tree freak and the trees in this park are magnificent. The weather is changing. It is blowing a gale but is not cold.

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We met up with our travelling companions this evening at 6.00 pm. There are 33 of us, but two are arriving late and will get in at 9.30 pm tonight. They all seem like nice people and are friendly and chatty. They come from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

The conceirge gave us a talk about the history of the Shelbourne Hotel and the famous people who have stayed here. Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier; John and Jackie Kennedy; every movie star worth mentioning and lots of other famous people. Apparently the Shelbourne is the place to be seen and many a famous Dubliner will just pop in for a drink. Unfortunately we don't know who they are!

Our Tour Director is Tom Doyle, an Irishman who now lives in Granada, Spain. He is a nice guy and we think he is going to be a good guide.

He did a short orientation walk this evening and a few of us went with him. We then continued on down the street to see some Georgian houses and then on our way back, stopped in at the Doheny and Nesbitt Pub for dinner. Several of our group were up there having dinner and we sat with Sharon and Bruce and Alan and Ilona, friends from Castle Hill. We had a nice chat, getting to know each other.

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I had potato and leek soup and Phil had bangers and mash AGAIN!

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Looking forward to travelling through Ireland with this group.

Posted by gaddingabout 13:45 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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