Friday, November 22, 2013

Big Week

This week, Nolan started reading books! Kim the Kid, Meg the Hen, and Rex the Dog!

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And, Liana turned 14 months. She loves to say hi to everyone, and is starting to like reading books more. She is very silly, too.
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kinsale and Jameson Distillery

We finally made it to Kinsale last weekend! I visited here 6.5 years ago for work for 2.4 days and luckily my boss was able to show me around the area a little bit while we were there. It is a beautiful area with good seafood. It took us so long to visit, because we wanted to meet up with an old coworker who live there, and we have all had pretty busy summers! The three hour drive turned in to four due to traffic leaving Dublin, UGH!

We got in barely in time for dinner, and we walked down to The White House for dinner. They did a pretty good job, as do most places in this town. The food culture is very strong here, and bad restaurants just don't make it long. The White House had a random 9/11 Memorial wall inside, quite nice.

The next day we were going to walk around town in the morning. It really is a nice little town to walk around, with a lot of little shops. This place gets crazy busy in the summer. The museum was unfortunately closed for the winter, which I didn't know. After some lunch at the Lemon Leaf Cafe, we drove out to Charles Fort.

Charles Fort is pretty in tact for its age. There are a couple exhibits and nice views of Kinsale Harbour. After walking around for almost an hour, we decided to drive toward James Fort next. I knew it was small and in ruins, but I didn't know you had to hike to it and since it had started raining, we just drove down to Old Head. I remember visiting the area years back, and it all came back to me while visiting. The cliffs are pretty impressive, with absolutely no barriers at all, so we left the kids in the car.

Next we drove to Garrylucas Beach and since the rain had stopped, we let the kids play in the sand for a while. After some play, we drove to the 9/11 Garden of Remembrance we learned about at the White House. I knew the general, and if driving slow enough, you will spot the red gates along side the road. I went in and a man was collecting the American flags from the trees, all 343 of them. Yes, 343 trees are planted there, each with a tag of a firefighter who lost his life that day. Very, very nice site. An Irish nurse who lived in NYC for 30 years had always regretted not helping out that day, and she made this garden outside a family farm. This woman died in 2011 to cancer, and the gentleman I met is this woman's nephew, who helps take care of it. Several unofficial websites talk about this site, here is one, here is one, and here is another. This is a really incredible site and any American in the area should check it out!

Pictures from Kinsale can be found here.
The next day on our way home, we decided to stop in Cobh. There is a Titanic Experience there, but we had already done the one in Belfast, so we skipped it. Cobh does have a grand cathedral! Built on top of the hill overlooking the town, and it is huge. We happened to show up at noon right as mass started, so we didn't go in. But, we did drive to the other hill across town for great views of the cathedral.

Pictures from Cobh can be found here.

Next, we decided to stop by the Jameson Distillery in Midleton for a tour. We had read that this was the better option, as opposed to their Dublin tour. When we got there, we learned that on Sundays now if you buy lunch, you get a free tour! We actually saved money as our lunches cost less than the cost of entry, so a great deal! The tour covers their old, original distillery, which hasn't been used since the 1970s. But, they keep a lot of stuff in working order, like the grist mill, and steam generator, and the stills. The tours are interesting and you get a sample at the end. If you are a really big whiskey fan, stand toward the front of the group at the end of tour for when they ask about the special tasting at the end. Eight people get a special tasting, but you have to get chosen! It was definitely a neat stop, even with kids. And, their lunch was pretty good!

Pictures from Jameson can be found here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Galway, Connemara, and Cliffs of Moher

We were able to visit the west coast as Galway is only 2 hours drive from home. We arrived in Galway Friday night and got checked in to the Victoria Hotel. This is a nice enough place, and very close to everything. The plan was to get up Saturday morning and do a driving tour around Connemara. We didn't have everything exactly planned out and would change course as we went.

We started off driving north to Cong. This is a quiet little village with a nice abbey to walk around. We then decided to skip Castlebar and Westport and drive through the country to Leenaun. We had some great views of the countryside and some large lakes. It started raining while driving, so we found a place open for lunch, the Leenane Hotel. They did a pretty good job. After lunch the rain had stopped, so we drove up to see Aasleagh falls. The rain was trying to spit again, but these falls, while not high, were flowing impressively. Next we drove south to Kylemore Abbey. It was raining some still, but we went in to the gift shop. Our travel guides said walking to and paying for the abbey is not necessary as it is expensive, and the view from the parking lot suffices. We drove a bit further and saw the sign for Connemara National Park visitor centre. My research indicated that it had closed the weekend prior, but the sign said open. So we stopped and learned that the sign was for the park, not the visitors centre. Oh well, still a neat area. We drove next through a little area called Letterfrack and then saw a sign for Avoca! We didn't think Avoca was that far away, so of course we stopped. It was small, and had no food, but was having a huge sale. We continued our drive with many great views and pull-offs, including Gurteen Bay beach. We didn't get to drive all of the Sky Road, but a pretty good amount of it, before heading back to Galway for dinner.

Pictures from Connemara

Sunday morning we woke up and walked around a bit before heading south. We walked through the Spanish Arch and up toward St. Nicholas church. We stopped in a few shops before starting our drive south to Cliffs of Moher.

Pictures from Galway

The drive through the burren was nice, with a good view of Galway Bay on our way up. There are other sites in the area, but we were only out there for one thing at this time. We got there and it wasn't really raining, but it was not clear. So, since it rains a lot out there, we were happy with it. The views are pretty impressive. One could spend quite a bit of time walking around the trails. They keep the edges pretty well protected, so you don't get real close to the edge to take pictures.

Pictures from Cliffs of Moher

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Belfast and the Antrim Coast

A couple weekends ago, Mike and Maggie arrived for a visit and we went to Northern Ireland for a bank holiday weekend. We planned to pass through Belfast and visit a museum or two (depending on time) and then drive up to our B&B near Bushmills in County Antrim. We first visited the Ulster Museum, a really nice, free museum. Just give yourselves some time to find parking! This is a good museum with a wide variety of subject matter. We spent enough time here that we decided to put off the Titanic Experience until our return on Monday afternoon. We drove to Victoria Square for dinner, which is a indoor/outdoor mall area with plenty of parking. We walked around for a bit while we had the light and then picked dinner at St. George's Market Bar and Grill. The food was pretty good here, I would return for another meal. The market looked like a nice market, but only open a few mornings a week. We walked back toward the mall for a milkshake, but too bad everything was shut down by 7pm on a Saturday!

We started our hour drive to the Causeway Tavern B&B. This place is ok. Located very close to the Causeway, and the rooms are typical size. They have a full english breakfast, and he does an ok job with it. The owners are nice enough people and he ended up talking my ear off as we were leaving. We first drove a few minutes to the Giant's Causeway. As advised by a friend, we parked at the railway museum for £6 instead of £32 up the hill. The rain was holding off on our walk out to the causeway, just barely. It was quite a neat area, but as tourists are allowed to go anywhere, they kind of ruin it a little. As we were about ready to head back, the wind and rain started. We had all of our gear, but I hiked Liana up the hill quickly to get out of the wind and rain.

Next we drove to Dunluce Castle. Again, the rain stopped for our visit until we were almost done. This was a neat ruins castle and we enjoyed exploring. On our way out, we saw several rainbows over the water. We decided if we saw a place to eat, we might stop, but we ended up driving to Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. We took the scenic route along the way and stopped along a few docks down near the water.

Mike stayed behind with the kids for the rope bridge. It was raining when we started walking, but again stopped within a few minutes. It was quite windy by the bridge, but were still able to cross. Once on the island, it is mostly blocked off. So after only a few minutes, we headed back toward the car. The bridge is quite sturdy and secure, but pretty high in the air.

We stopped in Ballycastle for some lunch at Thyme and Co., and then drove back to Belfast to find a place for the night. The next day we would visit the Titanic Experience.

Pictures of the Antrim Coast can be found here.

The day we visited was a bank holiday in ROI, so we weren't sure if people may be up visiting, causing long queues. But, we were able to pretty much walk right in to the Titanic Experience, so we got an early start. It isn't cheap, but really covers quite a lot of information. There is just enough to keep kids occupied. Afterward we walked down to the Pumphouse and dry dock where Titanic was built.

Pictures of Belfast can be found here.