Put a cork in it- we’re full of blarney

Road Trip!

After spending part of one whole day in our new home sitting back and relaxing, we got cabin fever and had to get back out there to see the sights. We decided to head out west, specifically to the Dingle Peninsula (which we only saw from across the water as it turned out, dingleberries that we are), the Ring of Kerry, the city of Cork, and of course the Blarney Castle, which we actually added to our itinerary once we were out there quite by accident.

It’s about a three hour drive to get across the country east to west. Fortunately, there is a very nice highway for most of it, where you can go 120km/hour (75 MPH). They drive the way the Italians do… if you’re in the right lane you better be passing someone. There aren’t as many speeders here as there are in Italy, but if you’re in the right lane and someone comes up on you, you better get to the left pronto. It’s efficient, everyone understands it, and other than some congestion in Cork, the highway moves very quickly.

So Carolyn isn’t going to have known the following until she reads this entry, but it’s actually quite entertaining to be traveling with someone who gets so excited about everything she sees. I think the combination of her being a designer as well as the excitement of seeing things she only dreamed of seeing creates an exuberance that makes the whole trip rather joyful. She thinks I’m continually annoyed with her for being so interested in everything, but actually I’m not at all. In the end, she’s cute and loving and sweet and our love for each other continues to grow the longer we are together.

Of course, her enthusiasm also means that the picture-taking is nearly non-stop. Which is great for us in the long run, since we can pore through all the pictures in our old age, squealing with delight while she says, “Remember when I took a picture of my boots in the car?”

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Indeed, one of the phrases that may I hear over and over again in my sleep is, “Maybe you should take a picture of…” It could be a house, a field, a business sign, a duck, a sheep, more sheep, even more sheep, a road, a landscape, the same landscape from two feet to the left, more of the house that was next to the landscape that I didn’t quite get enough of… you get the picture (literally).

It creates a lot of work for me to sort through them and organize them for the blog, but in the end, I love her for it because we’ll have an extensive pictorial documentary of this once-in-a-lifetime trip, and who can complain about someone being so excited to be where they are, wanting pictures of everything possible? Of course it’s not practical to have a video camera taped to your head so you can record the entire trip in order to relive it in its entirety some time in the future, but in a way that would be pretty cool, as long as you could edit and fast forward quickly and easily. Traveling with Carolyn is the next best thing in any case. I tease her once in a while, but deep down she’s a hoot to travel with, and we’re having a great time. I couldn’t ask for anything more than to be with someone who largely wants to do and see the same things I do, and is all the more excited about it.

Because of the volume of pictures, this will be organized with a brief summary of the main points of interest, and then a series of slide shows for those interested enough in knowing what it might be like to make this trip, just short of watching an entire video taken from a camera taped to our heads.

Since the drive is rather long, we decided to book a night in a B&B out in the area. We found one called the Hillcrest House. It is run by a kindly woman who has been doing it for 37 years. It was easily the best lodging value I’ve ever experienced in my life. For 60 euros (currently $68 or so), we got a room, a tea with lots of goodies upon our arrival, and a delicious breakfast of our choosing the next day. I had to order the Irish breakfast because we’re in Ireland. It included “black and white pudding,” which is a rather tasteless concoction that also includes pig blood mixed in. But otherwise the meal was delicious and filled us beyond capacity for our upcoming adventures of the day.

Here we are having tea upon our arrival:

While the value of the Hillcrest House was incredible in terms of the price, the room was quite small, with twin beds that had footboards, which meant my 6′ 3″ frame didn’t quite fit, making for a fitful night’s sleep. The shower reminded me of what it would be like to take one on a boat. And the owner kept the house very, very warm. She didn’t seem to mind our wandering throughout completely naked in order to accommodate the temperature (the only other visitors were a German couple, so we figured they’d be very accommodating to nudity since they practically invented it), but we were fortunately able to open a window and cool our room down to less than Saharan levels so that we could be fully dressed while in the privacy of our own room.

One of the main things that strikes you while you’re there, whether inside the place or out, is the quiet. It is just completely quiet. That is true for a lot of places in Ireland… if you want to get away from the noise… come to Ireland. It’s quiet. Ssshh. I’m typing too loud!

After depositing our bags, we got back on the road to drive what’s called “The Ring of Kerry,” which is largely a sightseeing tour that includes the coast and a series of small towns and some ruins and such. The Ring of Kerry drive is included in the slideshow below that consists largely of the various sights we saw while driving.

The next day we drove to the quaint fishing village of Kinsale, which gets its own slide show below. We also visited Fort Charles, which gets its own slide show as well, and looks like this from the air. It took me fifty-five tries throwing my camera up as high as I could with the timer on to get this picture, so I’m rightfully proud of it.

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After Kinsale and Fort Charles, we headed up toward Cork, and noticed some signs to Blarney. Blarney hadn’t been on our itinerary for this trip only because we are still geographically challenged, and, to be honest, its current reputation moved it down our to-do list some. The Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone’s reputations have suffered as a result of the “kissing of the stone” being a bit silly and overblown, which is true. In Rick Steve’s book on Ireland, he even downplays the castle saying it’s underwhelming and just barren inside. On that, we couldn’t disagree more. The grounds were beautiful, but the castle itself was a wonder to behold and walk inside.

Indeed, Blarney gets its own slide show and individual pictures with comments.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get an overhead shot of the castle out of fear that they’d mistake my hurled camera for a drone and shoot it out of the sky.

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Here’s the site that greets you after you walk past the entry. It’s quite imposing and impressive. The castle, not us.

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Once inside, walking up this very narrow staircase is not for the faint of heart.

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A little known fact is that the early Irish invented the plastic skylight.

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This is where you lay down to put your head under the wall to kiss the Blarney stone.

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Here’s a man, not me, who is doing it. There is absolutely no risk, other than if you’re too old to get back up off your back. But kissing a stone that has been touched by the lips of thousands upon thousands of people before us? Ick.

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But here’s the main reason I especially didn’t want Carolyn to kiss it. With the gift of gab she already has, if the myth were true, she might never again, in her entire life, ever stop talking.

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This was called “The Murder Hole,” where they could pour boiling oil or rocks, etc. on invaders if they made it past the walls. It’s also where Carolyn feared I might throw her if she’d kissed the Blarney Stone.

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A very unusual tree in which the branches are growing downward. Apparently it’s a great place to gather eggs because the birds build nests upside down and when they lay eggs they just fall to the ground.

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The Blarney House. Carolyn wanted to make an offer on it for a second home in Ireland.

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They had Druids back then, but apparently in Ireland the Druids made their Stonehenges smaller, and with plastic. But their sound systems did go all the way to eleven.

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The sign says, “The Rock Close.” They were right.

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They had signs throughout the castle, including this old one at the entrance of the master bedroom that must’ve been posted by the queen:

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Again, Blarney was a sight well worth seeing. The old medieval castles are fascinating, with Blarney being one of the most interesting we’ve seen. And that ain’t no blarney!

After Blarney we drove through Cork, which is Ireland’s second biggest city, and on to Kinsdale, which is extremely picturesque. We didn’t spend any time in Cork other than driving through it, but we saw this impressive row of buildings, although we have no idea what it is:

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We also spotted this road construction, which impressed us enough to take a picture because of the clever way that they handle the traffic. Instead of road crew standing there looking bored while smoking a cigarette, and otherwise risking their lives to stop irritated drivers from driving past them despite their lazily held stop sign, here they have a light with a timer. When it turns green, you go. When it’s red, you know exactly how long you have to wait. Why we don’t have those in the U.S. is clearly a failure of either European marketing or the willingness of American to embrace change.

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So here is the Blarney slide show:

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And here is the Kinsale slide show:

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And here is the slideshow of Fort Charles. Quite an impressive fort, built in the early 1600s, and the site of some of the most important battles in Irish history.

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The last slide show are simply all the sights we saw as we drove across Ireland. You can easily summarize what we saw with one word: green. Everything’s green. Green green green. And then more green. But it’s beautiful, and gentle, and serene. And green.

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Speaking of green, they even use sheep here to mow the greens on golf courses!

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We couldn’t resist this greeting card, seeing as how we’ve gotten lost multiple times on this trip. We’ve always found our way home, and sometimes have had a whale of a time being lost!

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