Monday, May 27, 2013

Brú na Bóinne

A week ago we visited Brú na Bóinne while Christie was in town. While there are several sites in the area, we only visited the top two on this visit, Newgrange and Knowth. These are earthen tombs from about 1200 years ago. When you show up, you reserve a bus ride and a tour out to each site. To be honest, for all the hassle that might go in to getting a tour and what you actually see, it was just ok. Going in the Newgrange tomb and seeing how they built it to align with the solstice it neat, but that is the only thing there really.

Pictures can be found here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kilkenny, Waterford, and Rock of Cashel

This past weekend, we loaded up the car (4 adults, 2 kids) and headed south to Kilkenny. This is rated one of the top older, inland towns, and I would have to agree. Even with a little rain at first, it was pretty bustling on a Saturday afternoon. While we kinda struck out on lunch, it gave way to sunshine!

First we went to the Kilkenny Castle. We used our new Ireland Heritage card for entry. This is maintained in a usable state, so much different than we had seen anywhere else in the British Isles. We next walked to St. Canice's Cathedral. This was a nice little cathedral, and is famous for it's round tower. The weather was a little iffy at first, but once we got up, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It made for some great views of the town and the hills. It was now time to head to Waterford.

See pictures of Kilkenny here.

I didn't expect too much in Waterford, and I was right. The town was pretty much shut down by 6pm on Saturday. No one was out walking around except us. We found Koliba, a polish restaurant serving yummy pierogies. We had pierogies, potato pancakes, goulash, and kompot. It was all yummy. We also had some fruit pierogies, something we will try to make another time (and maybe fry them). After a quick walk around the old town triangle, we headed to the hotel for some rest.

In the morning, the town was empty again (but not too surprising). Mass ended as we walked by the Trinity Church and we asked a few people about breakfast, and they said "Maybe the hotel?". We found that the McDonalds was the only thing open, so we suffered through that and got to the House of Waterford Crystal for a tour. This was a pretty neat tour (and the factory is actually open on Sunday). Of course, this small factory is all that is left after the financial collapse in 2009, but they still make a few things.

See pictures of Waterford here.

Next we headed to Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel. We ate lunch at a little Italian place, hoping the rain would pass through. Well, it didn't, but we had free entrance to the Rock of Cashel with our Heritage cards. We walked with the tour for a few minutes, but we drifted off and did our own thing. Rock of Cashel isn't that big, and hard to do when rainy and windy (a lot of it is outside or in the cathedral with no roof). So, we will stop by another time when driving by.

See pictures of Rock of Cashel here.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wales and Liverpool

Last weekend, May 4th, was a bank holiday in Ireland, so we decided to visit our friends in Liverpool, see Wales, and take the ferry over to Great Britain. The Irish Ferry was pretty easy to book and it traveled from Dublin Port to Holyhead Wales. We took the fast ferry, which does the trip in just under 2 hours. On board is pretty comfortable. They have free wifi, but don't expect to do too much with it.

Once we arrived in Holyhead, we started immediately to our first town, Beaumaris. We needed pounds immediately to pay for parking, and we didn't have any yet, but luckily a welsh woman paid for our parking. The castle here was decent, and you can walk on top, but it doesn't have many towers or hidden rooms. The town here is a very cute little town, and we were lucky to have picked this place for lunch (well, the guide book said it would work out well).

Next we headed to Conwy. By the time we got there, both kids were asleep, so I quickly went in by myself. This castle is larger and has more towers and some hidden rooms. Good views of the town from the towers.  But next we headed to Llandudno. We read that this town was actually having a large festival, evident by all the cars parked, but we drove the scenic road around the Great Orme Park. We were able to drive up to the summit as well, where the tram and cable car end up. There were some great views of the hills and towns from the drive. Llandudno looks like a real cute little town, but due to the congestion of the carnival, we decided to just skip it.

On our way to Liverpool, we decided to drive by one more castle. Rhuddlan Castle isn't far from the main road and located in a little town. By the time we got here, they would have been closing soon. So Kacey let Nolan run around a little while taking a few pictures. This castle looked to be a little more in ruins than the first ones we had seen, so by this time, we were ready to go see our friends!

We got to Wirral just in time for dinner. Nolan and Braeden became instant friends! They were running around and holding hands before we even got to dinner. On Sunday we visited their church in Hoylake and really enjoyed their service. I kinda needed some time in worship after the stress we had endured trying to find a place to live. After church we took the train in to Liverpool and walked around the Mersey. The weather was fantastic! We visited the free Museum of Liverpool and the kids had fun in the "Little Liverpool" kids area. After some ice cream and walking around Albert Docks, we headed back home for some dinner.

On Monday (bank holiday), we decided to go to Chester Zoo. Well, so did about 10,000 other people. The 5 mile line inched in and we gave up after about 30 minutes. Even if we had gotten in, it would have been extremely crowded. So we bailed and went to the Blue Planet Aquarium. It was pretty empty, and the kids had a great time running around. Afterward, we headed in to Chester to check out the cathedral and walk around. The Chester Cathedral was nice and we relaxed in the central gardens for a bit. We next walked down to the river and walked along a bit. It was a nice place for a lazy walk. But, it was dinner time and worried things might close, we started looking. We ended up at the Ristorante Sergio for dinner, and it was great. I always love good Italian eateries where you can speak Italian to the folks there.

The next day we drove back in to Liverpool to take in the Anglican Cathedral. This church is pretty massive and the view from the top is incredible. The bell tower on the way up and hard to put in to words its size. We were also able to grab a quick snack here before getting on the road back to Wales. We had scheduled enough time to visit the Caernarfon Castle. This was a pretty neat castle and some of the tall towers could be scaled by Nolan. There is also a nice vantage point of the town square from the castle. We grabbed some food before heading to catch the ferry.

We really lucked out. The weather the entire trip was really great, we saw a lot of fun castles, some grand cathedrals, and saw some great friends.

Pictures from this trip can be found here.