Friday, February 29, 2008

Ireland: Blarney Castle, Mallow, Killarney, and back to Dublin (Thursday–Friday, February 28–29

Written Friday, February 29 at 12:25 pm, on the train to Dublin

Yesterday’s trip took us toward Cork, to Blarney Castle (and the Blarney Stone), probably the most famous tourist attraction in Ireland.  We drove toward Cork, then took the scenic route on the north side of Inishcarra reservoir, then into Blarney, where we had lunch.

Blarney Castle has large grounds, the castle ruins, a “rock close” (a garden path through some large boulders), and a manor house built a couple hundred years ago.  There are several stops and viewpoints around the grounds, explaining various history bits, including a cave with alleged tunnels to Cork, Kerry, and the lake; the dungeon, likely castle well, and kennel; the lake, where valuable gold plate was said to be tossed to keep it from the hands of the British (the lake was drained in the 1800s, but no sign of the plate was ever found); the lookout tower, and so forth.

Perhaps the most striking aspect was how small the castle actually was.  A basement and an entry room; rooms for the Earl, his daughters, and the priest; a “family room”; a banquet hall; a kitchen no larger than my own; and a couple garderobes (privies).  That’s it.  Presumably any guards and staff were housed outside the castle, but the image of one housing dozens of people inside is completely blown away.

Being there in February, the manor house was closed to tours, the rock close was technically closed as they were building a new boardwalk for it, but by going up the exit steps, I was able to get in and see pretty much all I wanted to.  In truth, there probably should have been a reduced entry fee, since perhaps 1/3 of the site was unavailable.  On the other hand, one of the guidebooks showed the line to kiss the Blarney Stone in spring or summer, with people lined up solid all around the battlements and around the banquet hall below.  In contrast, while I was in the castle proper, there were maybe a dozen others in there as well, such that I could go to any part and linger or backtrack as desired without having to deal with huge crowds.  And since Mom and Grandma couldn’t negotiate much in terms of steps well, and were getting a bit worn down by all the driving all week long, I don’t think we would have done much more there if it were available.

And yes, I did kiss the Blarney Stone.  With that added gift of eloquence, now you’ll never get me to shut up.  <grin>

We returned via Mallow and Rathmore, then stopped at the Lidl (closer to a Fred Meyer, perhaps, than anything else in the Northwest; grocery store plus some other stuff) to get the making for dinner.  I made pork chops, quiche lorraine (okay, I baked a pre-made one of those), and beets, plus pre-made strawberry trifle cups for dessert.

Friday morning came a bit earlier, as I made oatmeal and scrambled eggs with “bacon” (ham, to Americans) and bits of pork chops I had salvaged the night before, pre-cooking.  And then a scramble (heh) to the train.  The ticket to Dublin was €33 ($50, about the same as a ticket from Portland to Vancouver BC, maybe), purchased from the Irish Rail website; purchased at the station, it would have been €62!

The more I’ve travelled in recent years, the bigger a fan I’ve become of using public transportation — the El in Chicago, airport bus and subway in New York — but cross-country rail could be a whole different level.  It has been an enjoyable trip, however — except for the persistent rattle in something above the window next to me.  The cars are clean and modern, with little tables and even a food service cart coming through the aisle.  (It’s also a faster trip than by car, I think, with only two stops between Mallow and Dublin.)  Miles and miles of green Irish countryside going by, nothing much to see.

We should be in Dublin in 30-40 minutes, I think, and then I’ll catch a cab or bus to Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street, where I’ll be for the next couple nights.  I’m going to try to start shifting my schedule back around the clock, staying up late tonight, sleeping late tomorrow, and staying up late and probably sleeping very little on Saturday night, so that I’ll knock out on the plane to Amsterdam and then back to Seattle.  I’m scheduled back in Seattle at 2:30 pm.  The aim being, then to wake up the equivalent of late morning on Sunday (like I usually would) and being back to something close to my usual weekend schedule, minimizing the jetlag coming back.  We’ll see.

Updated on April 29, 2010:
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

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