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Post Info TOPIC: NorthWest Ireland Aug 09


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NorthWest Ireland Aug 09


It doesn't seem possible that is has been almost two weeks, since returning from our Aug 09 trip to NorthWest Ireland.  It seems that no matter how much time you spend and carefully plan, sometimes things don't go exactly as you would like.  Over all, the trip was great, and like many others on this web sight have said, I'm already thinking about the next trip to Ireland......smile

This report will be in many segments due to the length of the trip....and well, I'm long winded, even though I did not kiss the Blarney Stone on our first trip three years ago!

When starting a big trip report project like this, I have to remember advice my Dad gave me as he and I were restoring an old 1953 airplane.  He said:  "It's like eating an elephant....just take one bite at a time!"

Our trip started out after work on Tuesday Aug 4.  We departed Ocean Shores, WA about 5:45 PM for the 3 hour drive to Portland Oregon.  Since our flight departed at 6:30AM on Aug 5, we opted to go in the night before.  "Murphy's Law" will come into play several times during this trip, and Murphy's law says that a flat tire or car trouble on the way to the airport is possible!  So going the night before always gives you options, just  in case....

We had driving help from a close family friend who is retired, and he took our car back home instead of parking at the airport for 15 days.  It also came in handy to have a chauffer for our jet lagged, 3 hour trip home, after a scheduled 11PM arrival back at PDX on the 21st.

We secured a room at the Howard Johnson airport hotel, since they offered a 4:00AM van shuttle to the airport.  After a 3:30 AM wake-up call, a quick shower that was going to have to last for several hours,  and we were off!  We had printed our boarding passes the afternoon before on our home computer, so with all carry-on luggage (2-21 inch roller bags, and 2 smaller daybags for under the seat in front) our check in was easy...went right thru security and to the boarding gate.  We waited for the boarding call and got in line.  When we got to the ticket agent, he looked at our ticket and informed us that our passports had not been validated!  Oops... out of line and back to the boarding gate desk to have this less-than-1-minute detail taken care of!  I wasn't aware of this the last time, since we had checked luggage, and the pass port was taken care of at that time!

We had on-time boarding, and on-time departure for an uneventful 4 1/2 hour flight to JFK NYC.  Had a little turbulance a couple of times, and the crew and passengers were on alert, due to the turbulance injuries that occured on 2 flights the previous week on other airlines.  We had not flown trans-continental before, and due to the length of the flight I was able to sleep about 1 hour.  We did a circular approach to JFK out over the ocean, and the beaches were loaded with sun bathers, as it was over 90 degrees in NYC.

We had a dreadful long 7 hour layover at JFK.  We noticed that JFK airport looked rather well-used, with much wear and tear, as opposed to PDX, which was voted the nicest airport recently.  Probably due to the sheer numbers of people who go thru JFK vrs. PDX.  Made a few  cell phone calls to family and friends back in Washington and Nebraska to let them know the first leg went well and we had arrived safely.  Also called my Uncle who lives in NYC but he was unable to get together with us during the long layover, as he had to teach a college class that afternoon.

The lengthy boarding process took place on time about 9 PM for a scheduled 10 PM flight to Shannon.  We were loaded for quite a while before we were able to back away from the gate.  Then there was an extremely long taxi to get to the take-off runway.  It was almost 11PM by the time we lifted off.  The NY and eastern seaboard lights were brilliant as we circled once, then headed NorthEast, as best I could determine.  We were informed that it was a 5 1/2 hour flight, with a meal served 90 minutes after take off, and breakfast served 90 minutes before landing.  That left about 4 hours to sleep, of which I managed about 3 hours.  We had a chatty seat mate in the isle seat.  Since she and I were both teachers, we had to talk shop for about 1 hour before I drifted off.
They offered complimentary beer or wine to all passengers, so we chose a small bottle of wine to have later on in Ireland.  It wasn't long after breakfast that we noticed daylight outside the window, and then shortly after that the 40 shades of green started showing up down below, as we started our decent for landing.  We arrived early, about 9:23 AM. (to be continued)



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Thurday Aug 9

The skies over Shannon was partially overcast, but the weather forcast on the internet had looked good. We departed the gate, and went directly to Passport Control. It took about 10 minutes, then on to Customs. Our agent was friendly, but asked several questions, just to see how jet lagged we were. I asked him how he landed such a "ducky" job like customs agent in Ireland, and he said that after a hurricane destroyed his house in Louisiana, it was a no brainer decision, and he does really love working in Shannon! Soon we found ourselves at the National Car Rental counter. They were paired up with another company, I don't remember which one, but under the banner of "Auto Europe" if I remember correctly. They were also affiliated with "Irish Car Rentals" but we didn't realize that until we saw the sticker on the back window of the car. I presented my document that I printed off the internet for the booking that I had secured through Priceline.com after several hours of research. They had a competative price, ($605.00 US) for 15 days. Much to my later regret, I gave them the only copy of my document, and failed to get it back, and more importantly, failed to make a back up copy or 2 upon completion of the reservation. On our previous trip to Ireland, I had all the origianl documents for everything, for the entire trip, plus a backup copy given to my wife, and one to my parents. Needless to say, we had a blizzard of paperwork. After this trip, I'm totally convinced that is the way to do it! I read the rental contract completely, and showed them the letter from World Mastercard declaring CDW coverage. He assured me that was fine! I was not expecting a hassle or hard sell regarding CDW. We left with our copy of the signed contract and the keys and went outside to wait for the shuttle van. About 15 minutes later, we were on the way to the rental car lot, only about a 5 minute ride from the terminal. They dropped us and our luggage and pointed us towards our car, a silver 4 door compact, Kia Picanto. We immediately noticed that there were more dings and dents in our car, than in the other 2 cars parked nearby. We noted a few dents, dings and scratches that were not noted on our paperwork, so we took 9-10 close-up pictures with our digital camera. In the process my wife noticed that the front left tire was low. Went to the office and let the lot attendant know about it. He took the car to the back shop, and a few minutes later brought it back to us. This should have been a red flag..a low tire was that way because of a leak, and a simple shot of air turned out to be only a temporary fix. We should have had them note on the paperwork that the tire was low, and that it had been filled with air right before our departure.
Shannon airport area is sure a lot easier to navigate out of than our experience in Dublin 3 years ago. We departed about 11:15 AM and within minutes, we were out in the Irish countryside, heading north on N18 towards Ennis. We arrived there about noon, and stopped at a sidewalk cafe for a couple lattes, much needed caffine! We bought a pre-paid phone card and a large bottle of water to fill our plastic water bottles. Also found a bank to exchange dollars into Euros, enough for our first 3 nights of B&B payments. The exchange rate at the bank was $1.45 and at Shannon airport; $1.55, and at JFK and PDX $1.65. Our credit card statement showed a $1.43 exchange rate, so was satisfied that the bank rate was not too bad. Ennis was a neat town, and we were happy that we had pre-booked a B&B there for our last 2 nights of the trip.
Next stop was Coole Park, near Gort. Beautiful grounds and flowers, and a visitors center, with a display area on the 2nd foor that detailed some of Lady Gregory's life. Of course we learned that she was a contemporary and friend of WB Yeates. The grounds were beautiful and we examined the autogragh tree, and located WB's autograph. Went back to see the video, but the equipment was out of order. It had started to sprinkle, so we left.  We had missed the turn off to visit the Kilmacduagh Monestary, so we backtracked a few miles to see that. It was founded by St. Colman. It was an impressive stone church, walls, cemetary and round tower. Spent about 30 minutes there, then got back on the road to Galway.
We got to Galway during the evening rush hour, but managed ok after we picked up a Galway city map from a Petrol Station. I had printed out a small detailed map to the B&B, but it wasn't large enough to get the big picture on the best arrival hiway into Galway. Our route took us right downtown, over the bridge adjacent to the Spanish Arch, and with in 3 blocks had arrived at "Griffin Lodge B&B" We liked the location, the breakfasts, the hostess, Ann was one ofthe best of the entire trip, but the downfall was parking or lack there-of.   Since we were spending 2 days and 3 nights in Galway, she managed to squeeze our car into a small spot in the rear of the parking area, and since it was trapped, she wanted to keep the key. It turned out, that like Dublin, you really don't need a car in Galway....we didn't move it the whole time we were there. We took showers, changed clothes, and asked our hostess if McDonaughs really lived up to its reputation for fish and chips. She assured us it did, and since it was only a 10 minute walk, we felt we owed it to science to go check it out. It was really very good, both of us had cod and chips, but we did find one other location with better fish and chips....stay tuned and I will let you know later on! After eating, we wandered up the narrow pedestrian street past numerous gift shops, pubs, and restaurants, both of which had nice sidewalk cafes. With in about 10 minutes we found ourselves in Eire Square, so we wandered back down the opposite side of the street till we came to "Murphy's Pub" We had to make a pitstop to finish the evening off with a pint of Guiness for me, and a pint of Murphy's for Joyce. We immediately noticed that her pint was served in a pint with the "Murphy's" beer logo printed on it. We had tried in vane 3 years ago to purchase some of these pint glasses, but had waited too long into the trip and we were by then too far north of Cork to find any pint glasses for sale, but did locate one glass or half pint. So we asked our bar tender if there was any way we could buy  "Murphy's" pints from the Pub, since Murphy was our last name. He immediatly packaged up one and said it was a gift to us. We were thrilled. We still had hopes of finding some more somewhere in NW Ireland to buy in a gift shop. We were both too tired to wait around another half hour or so for the trad. music to start, so we headed back to the B&B for some much needed sleep. Reserved a 9AM slot for breakfast with our hostess and crashed. (to be continued)



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Dan,

Thanks for starting your trip report. You have me in suspense about the car. Are you going to save that for last? It will be a real whodunnit.

Michele

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Michele

It is a work-in-progress!  I   have sent emails to Priceline.com, Irish Car Rentals, and National Car Rental.  I first got a reply from Priceline, and they sent me a rambling form letter that didn't help me much.  I got a reply from Irish Car Rentals, and an invoice that was all in Euros....my original quote was in US dollars.  Also got a reply from National and that invoice was in Euros, but more detailed.   If you remember, on one of my posts back in July, I mentioned the one liner that said something about additional charges may apply.  I think those have surfaced:   I had a 90 Euro PAI charge, a 45 Euro CC Collection Charge (on top of the 4 Euro CC Collection Charge that was on my original contract and quote) and a "Peace of Mind Plus" charge totaling 30 Euros.  The total bill on my world Mastercard was $979, the quote was $605.  Part of the difference is a 65 Euro petrol charge, that I understand has already been credited back to my credit card, since I returned the car full and provided a gas receipt. Also there is a $29.95 transaction fee,  a separate entry on my card, which I assumed was the euros to dollars fee, but my credit card company tells me that fee is 3%, and I don't know if that will be on top of the 29.95 fee, or not.  Today I called the customer service rep from Citi World Master Card.  They are going to initiate a disputed charges claim next Tuesday.  I relayed this information tonight to National car rental, and hopefully will prompt them to take action before Mastercard gets involved.   So....we'll see what happens.  It seems that so far,  the customer service rep from National is the most likely to help, as he has indicated he would try to come up with a copy of the original contract that I signed at the rental counter.  Will keep you posted.  Dan

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I just reread my post, and it dawned on me how much of a rip-off the 65 euro petrol charge is. It was a economy car that got great gas milage. We drove the car about 1700 K and filled it up 3-4 times, when it got down to a quarter of a tank, and the price ranged from 30 to 35 Euros each time we filled. So a full tank would have probably cost in the neighborhood of 45 euros. I don't think you could get anywhere close to 65 Euros of petrol in the car if it were completely empty. So one piece of advice, if you are able to return the car full, it will be a savings worth going after. The main instructions asked us to return the car empty, but we also found in another area of fine print a sentence regarding presenting a gas receipt if returning full. And, there was a sticker on the gas guage that said: "Please return car empty." I am totally convinced this is just another ploy that allows the rental car companies the ability to get somewhere between 20 and 35 Euros extra out of the average rental.

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Friday Aug 7

Had a great night of much needed sleep, but managed to wake up about 7AM. I walked downtown, since I am use to walking most mornings back home. Stopped at the bridge to watch the swans and get some photos. I had purchased a new digital camera, a Cannon PowerShot A1000IS. I felt that we needed an extra back up camera, and it was a wise decision since Joyce's camera eventually got damaged when she fell. The swans provided a good chance to practice my camera techniques, and I was impressed how good the photos turned out (by my standards) for a point and shoot camera that was easy to use. Headed over to the small coffee shop near the Spanish Arch and got a latte. Headed back to the B&B. Since we had done some laundry the night before, I checked on the drying progress. Went down for a full Irish Breakfast. Eggs, white and black pudding, link sausage, bacon, white toast, brown soda bread, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, strawberry yogurt, cold cereals, and fruit  salad. The French Press Coffee and everything else was very good! Ann was one of the best and most friendly hostesses we had the entire trip. After breakfast, we headed downtown to shop. Buying gifts for family and friends is always the most difficult part of any trip that we have ever taken. So we knew we needed to get started, because we alway find things we want, but do not buy, and then later on can't find those items. We decided not to do that this time and we managed to succeed in getting some bought. We enjoyed listening to the street musicians in between shopping. Eventually ended up at the Spanish Arch. Then walked over the bridge and around the west side of the bay to a grassy area that was being used for soccer. There was a paved walking path headed in the direction of Salthill, so headed west on it. Couldn't help but notice that the lane was divided in half....bicycles on the right and walkers on the left. Somebody had written "Fat Lane" right below the picture of the walker!biggrin The walkway was about 1 1/2 miles total, and just what we needed after a long plane ride. After our walk, we headed back downtown about 5 PM. We stopped into Tig Coili Pub for the 6:00PM session and a pint. Good music! Went back to McDonaughs for fish and chips. Joyce had the cod again, and I opted for smoked fish. It was not nearly as good as the smoked fish we had in Kinsale 3 years ago. Headed back to the B&B about 9 PM for one last early night to catch up on sleep and combat jet lag. Watched the weather forcast, and we were glad that we had opted for our trip to Inishmore Aran Island for Sat, as it was forcast to be severe clear and warm. Ann had called in reservations for a flight, and we had the earliest one of the day. More about that on the next post. Dan

-- Edited by murphy on Saturday 5th of September 2009 09:03:00 PM

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Dan,

Thanks for the additional info about your car rental. They do try to slip things into the contract if you are not alert. Another forum member had the same problem. It is not fair especially as you are dazed and confused after an all night flight.

Glad to hear your new camera worked out well for the trip. I'm looking forward to hearing about the flight to the Aran Islands and your day there.

Michele



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Sat Aug 8

We set the alarm for 6:30AM (an alarming thing to have to do on vacation!) and got up and showered, only to find out that it was really only 5:30AM!  Oops, Joyce had set the wind up alarm to the wrong time!   We used the extra hour to write in the travel journal, and then identified the pictures on both cameras that were taken the previous day. We find that if we write picture infromation down on a daily basis, we remember more details. Had an early cold breakfast of cereal, fruit, and yogurt, and headed down to the Kinlay House Hostel to catch our 8:00 AM airport shuttle van.

Our flight was at 9:00AM, and at check in I inquired about a co-pilot. They said that on that size of airplane, no co-pilot was required. I inquired about the possibility of someone with a private general aviation pilot's license occupying the co-pilot seat. They said that I could do that, and often times other pilots have too, you just have to ask! What an exciting 7 minute flight! to Inishmore Aran Island. It was a twin engine, 12 passenger plane. The cost was 51 Euro/person, ($144.00) and since my wife and I both get sea sick, we opted to spend a little extra and do this mode of transportation.  The big bonus was that we were able to get to Dun Angus Fort over an hour before all the crowds arrived, and also were able to spend more time on the island than those who rode over on the ferry. Upon departing the plane,  we found out that we  had 2 options for getting into Kilronan Village; a 2 mile walk, or a 5 Euro roundtrip van ride. We opted to take the van....what's a few more Euros at this point in the journey? After arriving in town, we had 4 options for getting to Dun Angus. A really long walk, a 10 Euro pony trap ride, a 10 Euro Bike rental, or a 10 Euro van ride. We opted for the van.

The island is very desolate, like the burren, but beautifully scenic. The van driver was friendly, funny, and informative. He dropped us at "Temple Chiarain" a church built in the 8th or 9th century, and was located about the half way point. We looked around about 10 minutes, then back in the van and on to the west end of the island to the visitors center for Dun Angus. Since this was a heritage sight, we elected to buy our heritage passes there, for 21 euros/person. We used them several more times, and we found out it was well worth it.  After a fairly good uphill hike we arrived at the fort, nestled right up against the Atlantic Ocean, and it was totally awesome. Spent about an hour up there, with only 4 other tourists.
The cliff walls were huge and impressive. The structure was massive. It is probably on my top 5 list of must-sees in Ireland.

Headed back down the hill to be greeted by the throngs of tourist pouring in on bikes, pony traps, and vans. Stopped in at the little cafe near the visitors center for lattes and scones. Then caught our van for the trip back down to the village. Walked around Kilronan, visiting the shops and buying some gift items and to admire the beautiful Aran wool sweaters. Since it was lunch time, we wandered in to the American Bar for a pint of "moothers milk" (Guiness) and a bowl of mushroom & leek soup and brown bread. The beautiful weather enhanced the whole island experience, and made us wish that we could have stayed over night there. All too soon, we had to catch our shuttle back to the airport, for another scenic 7 minute plane ride in...you guessed it....the copilots seat. Joyce complained that the back of the plane smelled bad. I figured maybe a fuel smell, but she said it smelled more like sheep doo doo! We figured those sheep ranchers on Inishmore probably needed to go to the mainland once in a while!. The airstrips on both ends of the flight looked really short to me, and the pilots did a fantastic job of doing impressive pinpoint shortfield landings.

We arrived back in downtown Galway about 5 PM. Stopped At Taffes Pub for a chicken sandwich, salad, and pint and to take in a little of the 6 PM session. When the 2 musicians walked in and sat down, I mentioned to Joyce that the Japaneese Fiddle Player looked familiar. We had visited our local home town  Irish Pub "Galway Bay" back in June, and the live music featured a band from Galway Ireland, called "The Galway Ramblers" I was pretty sure this was the same fiddle player, so during a break in the music I went up and asked him if he had played in Ocean Shores Washington last June. He looked at me surprised, and asked if I was there. I told him that I live there. He was amazed that we found him, since the owner of Galway Bay had emailed him to let him know that he may be getting  visitors from Ocean Shores! It really is a small world! He invited us to come over to the Crane Pub, where he was heading up the 9:30 session upstairs.

We headed back to the B&B to freshen up, then over to the Cathedral for evening Mass. We somehow missed finding the Cathedral, but located another Catholic Church about 10 blocks north, and 1 block east; St. Josephs. We were sorry to miss the Cathedral, as it is one big landmark and worth seeing in Galway. We could see it from the B&B, and it appeared to be about 3-4 blocks straight north. However, it was just not visable from the street adjacent to the river that we were advised to take to get there. After Mass, we had time for a quick game of cribbage, before we headed out for the evening session at the Crane.

The Crane is an amazing pub, with sessions going on at the same time on both floors. There were a lot a young people playing along with Michael, and I once counted 18 playing at one time.
I never get tired of listening to the great blend of instruments that are used to play this type of music, and they don't rehearse as a group...it is just spontaneous...and they all seem to know when to change keys, change to a new reel, and even end together. Awesome! Got back to the B&B and fell asleep with fiddle and flute music ringing in my ears!

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Dan,

What a lovely day you had on the Aran Islands. And you got to be co-pilot twice no less! Maybe on another trip you will spend a night or two on the island. How nice to fall asleep with an Irish session still in your ears.

Michele

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Dan,   Glad you had such a good trip; yes, start making plans -- there will be a next time biggrin  Great idea about hotel and chauffer!   Your trip prior to going to the island sounded really  nice.  You will have to post a swan picture for sure!

 Next trip be sure and stay on the island for 3-4 days, if possible.  We loved our stay with all the places to visit, but didn't make it to the fort -- I have a problem walking.  It is such a unique land!  I really liked it there more so than the Burren.   We too had mostly good weather, but since we both love the rain, we really didn't care, always can dry off smile.  A really good place to stay and be in an excellent walking/view area, close to the ocean, beautiful stone fences, etc. is Man of Aran Cottage.  Just tell the driver in a van and he will take you right to it.  Maybe Bit will add the web site for you to check.  We want to stay in the main cottage on our next trip because we think we would get more of the atmosphere than the cottage we had this year (it was nice also, down the hill from the main cottage.  There were two units).  Maura and Joe are so nice, friendly and very informative.  Maura used to be a chef and serves dinner (not incl. in the price of the cottage) after she gets a head count in the morning.   Breakfast could fill you for a day with the choices.  And, the pudding was the best.  Most places we stayed, I didn't care for it.  The good place for fish and chips in town was a little restaurant next to the Aran Sweater shop.  Also, on the way, there is a good place to eat, music and pub.  Since you are a walker, you could walk, but it is a good distance.  If Bit had not been there also, we surely would have missed most of what we saw and did -- nice having our own "tour guide". smile

Have enjoyed your journal so far and looking forward to more and pics.  youngka

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Youngka,

We took nearly 900 pictures, and my wife is in the process of sorting them all out. We have never posted pictures to the net before....so we'll see! Sounds like you had a great place to stay on Inishmore. We did see 4-5 B&B signs on the island, but don't recall if one of them was Man of Aran Cottage....more than likely. It was probably our most memorable day trip of our entire trip, and the airplane ride....well, it was just like frosting on the cake! Hope you get your chance to get to the main cottage someday soon, and as for us spending 3-4 days there, maybe, but...I have many more areas in Ireland I would like to see first. So many beautiful places in Ireland...so little time! Dan

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Hello! We have now gone 4 years in a row, so we have had quite a variety of B&B's + self catering. We were to be there for 6 weeks this year so we could go from Shannon North along the coastline the whole way to Dublin, then cut across back to Shannon. We had to leave early because of my hip, but since we are retired, we will have to just return. We spent our first two trips in the Southwest corner and there is a LOT to see. I would like to go for a year, but my husband said, "Don't think so." I hope you can return many times....I don't have luck posting pictures on this forum, have to get busy and see how. Man of Aran Cottage was built a little off the road pretty close to the ocean -- for a documentary they made of Aran Islands and how people lived -- it was a good VCR, but the tourist office, in town, didn't have any more. Anyway, it is very unique to see the house they built so many years ago for the documentary. So neat you got to sit with the pilot, what an opportunity! Keep planning!! Don't forget to take the boat from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, Kenmare, Adare, Skibbereen, area around Cork, and everything else.......  just keep planning  smile youngka 

-- Edited by youngka on Sunday 13th of September 2009 01:13:58 AM

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Sunday Aug 9

Today was relocation day, so had an early 8:00 AM breakfast and checked out after we had a photo taken with Ann. Headed northwest on N59 toward Clifdon. Our first stop was at Brigits Garden near Oughterard. This garden was in a rural setting, with pastures and hay fields surrounding it. It had a Celtic theme featuring flowers, annuals, perennials, bushes, shrubs, trees, and herbs from the 4 seasons. Also featured were several sculptures in the garden, and we even climbed on top of the fairy fort! Spent about 2 hours there, and enjoyed it as much as Powerscourt 3 years ago. I think there were more blooming flowers here than Powerscourt. Took time for a coffee break in the gift shop, and headed out about noon, back on the hiway west.
 
Next stop was Aughterough Castle. Every bit as exciting for us as Blarney Castle, but less people! I remember that the Blarney Castle was the first Irish castle that I ever saw, and I was so much in awe, that I was totally speechless.smile  Our Heritage Pass worked here, and we toured all the floors clear to the top, with a great view of the countryside.  We noticed that on the west side of every floor of the castle was an area that was sign posted "lavatory"  They appeared to be all interconnected from top to bottom, and sure enough, as we left I spotted the 1'x2' opening, where apparently everything  drained out.  Where it went from there...I don't know!  The grassy area around the castle was beautiful, as well as the surrounding walls with lookout posts on the corners.  It appeared that many castles in Ireland were built next to a river.  After about a 2 hour visit, we again headed west.

Next stop was at Joyce's Craft Shop.  It was a wide spot in the road out in the middle of nowhere, but my wife thought we should check it out.  In front of the parking area we noted a historical marker that read:  "On this sight in 1897 nothing happened"  It must have been one of the few spots that could claim that, because almost around every corned we noticed something that would be fun to check out...one of the attributes of Ireland that draws people back time and again.

We arrived in Clifton, and found a pay phone to call our B&B in Westport to confirm our internet reservation.  They were expecting us between 6-7PM.  Headed north out of Clifden, on the "Clifden Sky Drive"  What a scenic route; narrow, high and breath taking views down into the Atlantic coastline of Ireland.  Spotted numerous water craft, and the islands were picturesque.  We selected a pull-out, and parked to eat our mid-day lunch of  a shared sandwiche, crackers, cheese and cookies.  This drive looped back around to the east to join up with the main highway which now headed North East toward Westport

Before too long we spotted the sign for Kylemore Abbey.  Of course we stopped, primarily for numerous photos.  Our schedule didn't allow us to tour the Abbey and gardens, due to our check in time in Westport, so left.  I think this stop was the most photo-ready spot of the entire trip....it is so beautiful, the landscape totally unspoiled, and the starkness of the structure is really something to experience, and hard to put into words.  Every photograph we took appeared to be like the work of a professional photographer, because the subject matter was just too perfect!  Will consider returning someday for a closer look.

We arrived at our B&B, Abbey Court about 6:15.  Our host and hostess, Maurice and Kay were great, and helped us with information about our day trips planned for the next 2 days, and which one to take first, based on the weather forcast.   Also gave us advice about their favorite places to eat in downtown Westport.  We freshened up, did some sink laundry, then headed out for the evening.  Westport was very congested, with traffic and people, and we were glad to be within walking distance, and once again leave the car parked.  It was the final night of the Westport Music Festival.  We weren't interested in participating because it was mostly Country & Western music....I believe Randy Travis was the big name performer.  Country Western, and in particular, Johnny Cash is very popular in Ireland.  There was really a festival atmosphere downtown, with some areas shoulder to shoulder with people, and we could hear the music over most of the downtown.  We ducked into Dunnings for a pub dinner.   It was good food, Joyce had fish and chips, and I had a salmon dinner, steamed veggies, and of course mashed potatoes.  Had to wash it all down with a pint of "gargle" (Guiness)!  We then wandered over to Matt Molloy's Pub ( the owner is the famous flute player of the Chieftans).  We had heard that the trad music would be good there, and we were not disappointed!  Many of the musicians were once again young, most mid to upper teens through early 20's, it appeared.  They say Irish music is alive and well, and the younger generation is really stepping it up and participating in huge numbers.  It was very crowded in there, although we had seats...high stools against one wall, and we got to feeling a little bit claustrophobic, before the night was over.  Could only imagine what it would have been like in those pubs back in the days when smoking was allowed in public places.  After another pint it was time to head back to the B&B, and at this time the streets were still full of people celebrating the end of the festival. 

We found out the next morning that a Garda Officer had been stabbed and that had put a damper on the event.  This was widely discussed in the National media, as it was very unusual for this type of violence in small town Ireland.  It turned out to be a local lad who had been let out of jail after only 1 month of a 11 month sentence for an offense involved with another attempted stabbing.  We never felt unsafe anywhere in Ireland, and everybody there hoped it was just an unusual isolated incident.  The officer was expected to survive, but had a lengthy healing process ahead.  He had been taken to Castlebar Accident and Emergency, a place that we would become very familiar with, in about 36 hours.   Dan


 

-- Edited by murphy on Monday 14th of September 2009 07:41:30 AM

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Dan,

Sky Drive is one of my favorites. The best photos are of the outside of Kylemore Abbey. The inside and walled gardens are fine, but if you don't have the time they can easily be skipped. Glad you enjoyed Briget's Garden.

MIchele

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Monday August 10

Woke up to partly cloudy skies, and traces of raindrops on the B&B windows from  overnight rain showers. After another great full Irish breakfast, and some time spent chatting with Kay, we decided that we were not in any big hurry to embark on our main activity for the day, primarily to climb Croagh Patrick! Kay thought that today offered a better forcast than Tuesday, and noon to 4 would offer the best chance of a break in the weather, based on the patterns over the past few days and the forcast. We drove downtown, and it was quite empty compared to Sunday, the  music festival now over. Found a parking spot right away, and checked out some of the shops. Enroute, we stopped at a bank to get some more euros (wow they go fast in Ireland!) We managed to find ice for our soft sided cooler at the local grocery store, in the meat department. Found our daily latte, as we were pretty sure they would not be available on the mountain!

Headed southwest out of Westport on  R335. The mountain appeared, and of course was shrouded by clouds, it looked like about the top third. We arrived at the parking lot about 11:30, and visited with the lady who was selling gift items and renting out walking sticks. Should have rented one, as I wished many times over the next 4 hours that I had one....and I thought  the canes were for old people! Looked over the beautiful grotto in front of the parking lot, and then got ready for the climb. Packed water and trail mix in my backpack, as well as a light rain coat. Had purchased a new pair of Nike high top tennis shoes for ankle support, with this climb in mind. It was pretty close to noon as Joyce and I started up the path.

It didn't take long and it was steadily uphill. We made fairly good time the first third of the way, and this is about the point where Joyce decided she had gone far enough. She decided to sit on a rock and people watch for a while before decending to check out the visitors center/gift shop. I continued on up. Often times I would pause and look back to see a beautiful landscape unfolding below us. I could see most of Clew Bay, stretching from the Atlantic all the way to Westport. What a sight! by this time many were already coming down, and confirmed my worst fears that there was no view from the top...only fog (clouds) and mist. Oh well, this is Ireland, and the climate is just like Washington's in the Pacific NW, so I was mentally prepared to deal with it. I was concerned about my footing, especially now that I noticed a little more moisture on the rocks.  I took extra time and precautions as it got steeper, and more loose rocks started appearing on the path.  Those that were headed up stayed on the more solid path, and those coming down gave way, and also were using the loose rock area...it looked and sounded strange, bunches of people decending and sliding on loose rocks.   At about the 2/3 mark, I gradually slipped into the clouds, and I grabbed one last photograph of the misty panoramic view that had unfolded below.

As we totally entered the cloud, the trail turned from a southerly route to a westerly route. Climbers that I met coming down assured me that it was still worth the effort, and it wouldn't be long now. But, the steepest, most challenging spot was still ahead, Sure enough, I got to the steep part, and everybody going up and down had really slowed down. Some were bent over nearly in a  hands and knees climbing attitude to keep a low center of gravity and to help pull oneself up sometimes using your hands. Finally I crossed the last ridge to the summit, and there it was...the beautiful little white chapel shrouded in fog and mist. Found a couple with 2 pre-teen age boys who I had visited with 3-4 times on rest stops on the way up, and they were about ready to decend. I took their picture in front of the chapel, and they took mine.... I just had to have proof that I indeed made it!yawn

The Chapel was locked, but was trying all the windows to see what it looked like inside.  The windows were all milky colored, except the ones in the main door, and this offered a good look inside. Pretty neat! Most everybody there had congregated on the south side of the chapel to stay out of the gusty north wind and to catch a little filtered sunshine...I had hopes it might break while up there, but to no avail. Most of us just sat by the chapel, drank water, and ate lunch or snacks. Three couples showed up, and they broke out some  cans of Guiness, and were celebrating their mastery of mountain climbing. I asked them for a picture of them with their beverages, and they oblidged, but didn't offer  to share anyno, and I was sorry I hadn't thought to bring some for myself!   I asked them jokingly, if it wasn't just a little sacrilegions to be drinking Guiness right beside St. Patrick's Chaped. They assured me that the old fella probably wouldn't mind!biggrin

I had walked right by the only other spot of significance, St. Patrick's Bed on the way up, so I stopped for a closer inspection  and  to take a few pictures before starting down.  It was a series of flat rocks roughly in the shape of a bed, and fenced around. St. Patrick slept here on his 40 days of fasting in preparation for bestowing Christianity on Ireland. I gathered up a few small rocks for close Irish friends and family members, and began my decent.  Now it was my turn to assure those climbing up that it was nearby and worth the effort.  I let some of them know that there was Guiness up at the top....but you had to bring it yourself!!wink

The decent was quite a bit easier as far as physical exertion is concerned, but was really taking it's toll on my hips, knees, and ankles, by the time I was half way down. I had been warned about this but until you experience it...you can't appreciate this difficulty. Again I took it slow, and cautious. About half way down, I met a group of about 25 people, Polish tourists on a pilgrimage to the top, accompanied by a Priest with a key to the Chapel. They were planning to celebrate Mass when they reached the top.

On one of my numerous rest stops on the way down, I just had to keep admiring the scenery below, the acres of purple heather and butter cups, sheep and lambs frolicking close by, and for one brief minute, it cleared enough to get a photo of the valley on the south. What a view, and all too soon it was swallowed up by the clouds and gloom.

Upon safely reaching the gift shop at the base about 4 PM, I spotted my wife sitting on a bench, waiting and  people watching.  We marveled at the age range of climbers, one little girl about 5, all the way up to people in their (young) 70's.  Also spotted the couple with the 2 boys, and found out that one of the boys had lost his footing and took a nasty fall.  Luckily, someone had reached out and caught him, or he would have fallen several feet down the mountain. They felt lucky! He ended up with only scrapes, scratches, and probably eventually bruises.

We had a bite of late lunch at the picnic tables in front of the car park, consulted our watch and the map, and decided that since we had long daylight hours yet in August, we should go ahead with our planned loop to the west, and then south. We headed west to Louisburg, then turned south down the Doolough Valley. We were looking for the famine marker, that showed the spot where many people suffered from hunger and exposure on a trek south to seek aid, but were turned down, headed back, and died enroute. Next stop was Aasleagh Falls, and spend a few quiet minutes there, listening to the rushing water and taking in the beautiful scenery in the valley, surrounded by foothills and mountains. We then headed east bound, and joined up again with the N59 for the return to Westport.

We freshened up at the B&B, did a little more laundry, then headed on foot back downtown for some pub-grub for dinner. Ended up at "West Pub" for Seafood Chowder, Salad, and Chips(FF) We left there and settled in at "Porter's Pub" for a few pints and the 9:30 session. Here we were treated to a combination of instrumental jigs and reels, as well as several ballads and rebel vocals  by 2 brothers who sang really well. Headed back to the B&B and the fog, mist, and a few rain showers had settled into Westport for the night.  So we settled in too, for a much needed good night of sleep after an active, but satisfying day.

-- Edited by murphy on Wednesday 16th of September 2009 11:20:26 PM

-- Edited by murphy on Wednesday 16th of September 2009 11:21:34 PM

-- Edited by murphy on Wednesday 16th of September 2009 11:25:54 PM

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Dan,

What an interesting experience climping The Reek. Your description was so detailed that I felt I was along with you. Except I didn't have sore legs!

Michele

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Tuesday Aug. 11

We awoke to extremely dreary skies and raindrops once again on the window panes.  We agreed that we had chosen the right day to climb Croag Patrick.  We had another great Irish breakfast and chatted with Kay a while...she seemed to talk non stop!smile  Had a short discussion about our day trip to Achill Island, and she assured us there would be plenty to see and do on the outing.  

The first stop was at the 7 arches bridge near Newport, north of Westport.  It was a marvelous structure, for a railroad bridge, and was worth a couple of photos.  We next spotted a sign for a castle, but it was one that required you to ask for a key.  We spotted a woman walking down the lane away from the castle.  We stopped to ask her about the key.  She said it was inside the lodge at the end of the lane, inside to the left of the front door.  She kept walking away from the lodge, and we drove up to it.  I went to the door to get the key, but the door was locked, and nobody answered.  So we struck out on that one.  We did stop by for some exterior pictures.  It was out near a hayfield, and it seemed odd that the farmers were out baling hay in the rain.  Then we spotted them putting them inside big white (or sometimes black) plastic bags.  It turns out that the hay could be put up much wetter, and then became silage for the cattle, instead of the need to get the hay down to 10-12% moisture so that it would keep, and not rot over the winter before the cattle or sheep had a chance to eat it.

Moved on and decided to take one of the many "Atlantic Loups" that pretty well cover the perimeter of Achille Island.  They are very narrow and winding, and realized after the first one, there would not be enough hours in the day to do too many of them.  We then stopped at a lake to watch the wind surfers a while.  Next stop was at Mulrany Super Valu for a latte.  Visited a young couple from Dublin on holiday.  It turned out that she was originally from the states, and now lived in Dublin with her husband and new son.  It amazes me that no matter where you stop in Ireland, some friendly people will tend to make conversation.  We really enjoyed that aspect of vacationing on the Island.

Our ultimate destination of the day was "Keem Beach" on the west side of Achill.  It was a blue flag beach ( a designation Ireland gives to its best and cleanest beaches)  It was really nice despite the fog or marine air that obscured the cliffs to the north which ranked with the cliffs of Moher and Slieve League for heighth.  They were not visible, but spent a while walking the beach.  We had our mid day lunch in the car, as it sprinkled off and on.

We spotted a road sign with a map of the Achille area on it, and the major attractions, and the Deserted Village caught our eye.  We headed back east, and soon spotted the turn-off road north, I believe the 319 spur towards Dugort.  About 4 miles, we spotted the signs and parking lot for the village.  We got out, and right away noticed that all the remains of the stone houses were in an area that had quite a steep terrain.  Of course, with the off and on showers, the footing seemed a little slippery.  We started on the east end of the village, and started walking from house to house.  There was nothing inside but rocks.  There were doorways, some side walls, and some endwalls with the gable ends, but none with roofs on.  Suppose they would have been thatched roofs in their day.  We were at the 4th house in that 1st row, and I had looked inside, and was heading to the next one when I heard a strange groaning sound.  I looked back and my wife was lying in the door way of that house.  She had obviously fallen down.  I ran over as well as another couple that were a few yards farther away, and I asked her if she was ok.  She groaned again, then said she really took a tumble and was afraid her arm was broken.  The 3 of us helped her into a sitting position, and then she mentioned that she had also hit her head.  We checked her head, and was just a small scratch.  But she said her left arm, shoulder and leg had taken the brunt of the fall.  She said that she had stepped on a rock about 1 foot in diameter, and her foot slid sideways, and then the rock tipped, and threw her into the wall before falling down in the doorway.  It all happened in a split second.

She sat there for a while on the ground, then we helped her to her feet.  The other couple kept asking if they could do anything, and she said no, we just needed to get to a Dr. because the pain was really kicking in.  So I helped her back to the car, and buckled her in,  her seat belt fastening, one thing   I would repeat many times over the next several days.  We had to drive fairly slow, as the small car and rough roads didn't make a great combination for the pain that was taking its toll.  It was about 2:30 in the after noon when it happened, and we discussed the Dr. situation on the way back to Westport.  We decided to go to the B&B and seek Kay's advice about a Dr.  We were pretty sure that x-rays would be needed, but had no idea if they would be available in Westport. 

We arrived at the B&B and summoned Kate, and told her what happened.  She said the nearest x-ray facilities would be Castlebar.  I suggested we go there straight away.  She talked us out of that, and into going to her family Dr. first.  It is a good thing we did, as this saved a lot of hassle and money later.  I guess it is their procedure to get a letter of referral from you local Dr. before going to "Accident and Emergency" of the nearest hospital.  Kay called her family Dr. but he was on holiday.  However, they did have a substitute Dr. and Kay was told they were not taking any new patients.  Kay explained the situation, that we were Americans on holiday, and would not be full time patients.  They relented, and suggested we come down right away, as by now it was 4:30, and they closed at 5:00. 

She gave us directions to the clinic 1 block south of one of the main streets of Westport, and we walked into the door at 4:45.  It wasn't long the Dr. walked in, and he asked the questions that we would be asked several more times.  Where's the pain?  Is there any numbness?   Is there any shooting pain?  Is there any tingling sensation in the fingers?  There was not, so he wrote out a 1 page letter that admitted us to Mayo County Hospital in Castlebar.  She wasn't looking forward to another half hour car ride, but agreed that we needed to go.  The Dr. asked her if she needed something for pain, as it could be a long wait at the emergency room.  She agreed that something for pain might be good, so he gave her a shot in her upper leg.  I think it was at this point that we realized that she had the biggest bruise I ever saw in my life on her left leg.  It went from near her waist, almost down to her knee, and was about half way around her thigh from front to back.  Of course her arm was bruising badly, and eventually it pretty well encompassed her entire arm from her shoulder to elbow.

We checked in at the registration window at Accident and Emergency, and they accepted our letter, and mentioned that it was a good thing we had one, because it would have been a 400 Euro charge if not!  It would have been covered by our Travel Ex travel insurance that I had purchased 2 days before we left.  Sat down in the waiting room to wait for a timeslot with the triage nurse.  After about 15 minutes, we were called in, and she took down all the details.   She explained that it was up to her to schedule people in according to the most dire needs.  During that time we were there a couple dozen people had walked in, and 2 ambulances had pulled up.  So we new it could be a wait. 

Finally about 9:00 PM we were called back.  We saw the results of the ambulance deliverys, a young gal had been in a car accident, and her head was held in a traction device, and head brace.  3 Drs. were pouring over her x-rays, looking for neck and spine injuries.  Then saw a young teenage man that had really been busted up in a soccer game.  His leg looked like a chain saw had gotten to it.  Finally we were visited by a Dr. who looked like he might have originated from India or Pakistan.  We was a general physician, and he told Joyce that she looked like she had been in a war.  She replied, yes, and the rocks won!  Then he immediately orderd up x-rays.  We were called back to the xray area, and Joyce was invited in, but not me....I guess because of radiation exposure.  The x-ray technician was a young guy, and before long he summoned me to help her out of her clothing and into an x-ray gown.  It was a painful experience for her, and I thought she was going to pass out a couple of times.  She had the x-rays, and then clothes back on.  By the time we got that done, she was sick to her stomach. 

It didn't take too long to get the xrays read, and our worst fears were confirmed.  A crack in the upper arm bone about an inch below the shoulder socket.  Also a bone chip showed up from her upper and outer shoulder.  He told us it was too high up in her arm to be plaster casted, and that a sling was the perscription, along with pain pills.  They fit her with a sling, and got her stomach settled, and then the Dr. advised us to get a 2nd opinion from an ortopedic Dr.  We asked him when and where.  He said that an orthopedic Dr. was coming on duty in about an hour, and we could wait for him, or we could come back Friday.  We opted to see him in an hour, since we were already there, and didn't know what Friday would bring.  So we waited about 1 1/2 hours, as another ambulance had come in.  Finally the Orthopedist came, and basically said the same thing that the first Dr. said.  We asked if we should make plans to return home early, since there was a 50% chance of needing surgery.  Both Drs. suggested that we stay in Ireland, as we had a 3 week window, if surgery was needed.  On top of that, they said the arm and shoulder would be much less vulnerable in 9 days that it would be right away, with 2 long haul flights and going thru 3 airports.

The Orthopedic Dr. wanted us to come back Friday anyway....but for peace of mind, we were glad we waited to seem him, even if it was after 11PM by now.  I went to the car lot to bring it to the loading zone, and we headed back to Westport.  It wasn't until then, that we realized we should have called Kay and Maurice to let them know what was going on.  We managed to make a quiet entry, and heard someone stirring in the B&B living quarters, but never saw anyone, and finally settled into our bed about midnight.  We had trouble getting to sleep, and then didn't sleep all that well that night.  The pain pills seemed to kick in about 2 in the morning, and she did manage to get some sleep. 

We got up for breakfast, and Joyce didn't feel like eating much.  Kay kept fussing over us, and said over and over how worried they were about us all night.  Again I felt bad that we didn't try to get ahold of them even though it was late.  We checked out, to head toward our next destination, Donegal.  I had suggested that we not go that far, but Joyce was a good sport, and said if I didn't hit too many pot holes, that she would be just as well off riding in the car, as sitting around in a B&B or Hotel.  We bid Kay goodbye after a great breakfast, and said we would keep in touch after we got back to the States so she could know the outcome.  It was a day that we will never forget, and would change both of our lives for many weeks to come.   Dan



-- Edited by murphy on Monday 21st of September 2009 12:40:09 AM

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Your wife has my sympathy.

I took a similar tumble at Drombeg Stone Circle, back in '06, though Iwas fortunate in that the only thing actually broken, was my pride.

Badly bruised (or possible cracked some ribs) in Amsterdam, in '08, too, so I have an idea of how something like that can SERIOUSLY impact a trip.

Hope that OVERALL, you two had an OTHERWISE enjoyable trip - less the injuries, of course.

Would be interested in hearing about the related costs for the medical care, if that's not too personal...

Did you make it down to Co. Cork????

Bob

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Bob

It sounds like you have had your share of accidents too. I don't know how old you are, but, I figure when one gets on the other side of 50, well, anything can happen.

Yes, OVERALL we still managed to make the most of the trip, and while we cut back our itinerary, it still took longer to get going in the morning etc, so it took a quite a bit of extra energy to do all the laundry, packing, carrying and so forth, when you become a care giver. We have a new appreciation of handicap restrooms, grab bars and a hadicap parking permit would have been nice, but was not readily available in Ireland. We checked at the hospital right away, and it takes a lot of red tape, and quite a while to get one.

The related costs were not that bad. The Dr. at Westport charged us 55 Euros, and that included the letter and the shot. That saved the 400 Euro cost at Accident and Injury that we would have had to pay if we went without the letter. The pain meds cost about 22 Euros. They didn't charge us for either sets of x-rays, nor the 2 subsequent appointments, or the arm sling. We had to buy some XL blouses and t-shirts to fit over the arm sling, about 35 Euros. We elected to buy a cell phone for 60 Euros with 60 minutes of time, so we could keep in contact with our travel insurance company, due to changing some B&B accomodations, and not knowing where we would be for sure on some nights. The only other expense would be the gas for the initial trip to Castlebar, and then backtracking there 2 more times for appointments. We are in the process of gathering receipts for all of this to submit a claim to Travel-Ex.

We were unable to keep 2 nights reservations for B&B's and we offered to pay for them, as Travel-Ex Insurance said they would reimburse us as long as we provided a receipt. Neither B&B elected to do that, and we haven't e-mailed them yet to see if they were able to re-rent the rooms. It was the decent thing for them to do, but I wouldn't have blamed them if they did charge us (insurance company), due to the economy being not so good in Ireland, similar to the economic conditions here in our tourist community.

The insurance company wanted to talk to the Dr. at the final appointment, which he agreed to do, and he stressed that for the 2 long haul flights, he wanted her in a 2 seat configuration, not 3; and so they were either going to have to rebook us on a 767 instead of the 757, or upgrade to business class. They elected to do the upgrade for my wife, but not me. They offered me an upgrade too, for $3,000.00. I decllined. However, since the business class section on the first leg over the Atlantic only had 4 seats out of 16 filled, they allowed me to stay in first class after I got her situated. I think the flight attendant would have rather let me take care of getting her seat belted in every hour, as the Dr. had advised her and the airline that she needed to be up and walking once per hour to prevent blood clots, due to all the bruising.

Business Class is the way to go on a transatlantic flight....It was great! Once we crossed into the United States, our travel insurance coverage ended. So our larger expenses will be on this end, and will all depend upon how much physical therapy will be required, which we will find out about on Sept 24 during our 2nd follow-up appointment with the orthopedic Dr. here in Washington. She is doing better, getting some more mobility, has been off pain pills for a couple weeks now, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. They predicted she would get 90% of her mobility and reach back, and surgery wouldn't gain anything. If everything looks good Thursday, she will probably begin therapy next week. Will keep you posted.

We didn't plan to get to Cork....this time. That will be another trip, probably staying at a self cater or the B&B that you mentioned to me  back in July. Would also like to spend a couple days in Kenmare again, and then to Kilkenny and Dublin, 2 places we have not been to yet. We also would like to do still another trip, 3 weeks split between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Dan



-- Edited by murphy on Tuesday 22nd of September 2009 11:52:43 PM

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Dan,

What a dreadful accident. Your wife is a trooper to keep on with the trip despite what happened. I hope that the rehibilitation goes well and she heals properly. Let us know how she is doing. I have had a few "little" accidents like sprained ankles but nothing big. It sure can put a damper on any trip.

Michele

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Wednesday Aug 12

We headed North out of Westport and our first stop was back in Castlebar to buy a cell phone.  We got one from O2 for 60 Euros, with 60 minutes of time.  We felt we needed the extra security of a cell phone to keep in contact with our travel insurance company, and the Drs. in case Joyce' condition took a turn for the worse.  

Next stop was the National Museum of Country Life near Swinford. We really enjoyed the entire attraction, from the beautiful grounds and flower gardens, to the indoor displays of how country life was many years ago. I didn't realize that the Irish used so much straw, from the construction of their homes to baskets, and even furniture. The clothing and shoes were fascinating. A complete museum and a worthwhile stop. If I remember correctly, it was admission with the heritage pass. My wife had to be very careful not to get bumped by the various tour groups that were being guided from display to display. Spent about 2 hours there.

Next stop was the Turlough Monestary and Round Tower.  Joyce looked from the car, but didn't want to take a chance on the footing as it had rained overnight, and the terrain was uneven.  We couldn't afford for her to take another fall, so I got out and looked around for about 20 minutes.  Back in the car, and then just a short distance north we arrived at Foxford Mills. We had a light lunch in the car, in Foxfords parking lot, and were able to make our 1st contact with Travel-Ex insurance company on our new cell phone.  We needed to wait till mid-afternoon for the time difference on the east coast of the US, but found out that the travel insurance company had a 24 hour a day, phone line available.  We gave them as much information as we could.   We then went inside to  do a little shopping but no buying, I guess we weren't in the mood. We did manage to have our daily latte before it got too late in the day  to cause insomnia.

We arrived in Dongal about 6:15 PM. We put petrol in the car, and called our B&B host, Paddy, to find out where they were located, as by this time I had somehow  misplaced the printed directions and map. He agreed to drive down to lead us in, as he kept talking about 2 round-abouts, and we couldn't find them. It turned out they were little tiny triangle areas, technically they were round-abouts, but not what we were expecting after going thru the larger round-abouts on the hiways. It turned out to be an easy route to Haywoods B&B. It would have been walking distance to down town, but not in Joyce's condition, so we drove.  Got a look at downtown Donegal, and we knew we had to spend some time there before we left the area.  We had wanted to look up one of Itallian Chauffeur (Bob's) favorite Donegal residents, Anchoress, but we knew we weren't going to have time to, since we needed to shorten our Dongal visit by one day and one night, in order to get back closer to Castlebar for the 9AM Dr. appointment on Friday.  

 We parked near the water front, and went to the Abbey Hotel Restaurant for dinner, as per Paddy's suggestion, and he didn't lead us astray.    For dinner, I had Guiness and Beafsteak Pie, and Joyce had, you guessed it, her usual Fish and Chips! One pint of Guiness with the meal for me, and we were ready to head back to the B&B for an early night, and in by 9PM.  Dan

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Michele,

The report on Joyce's injury was good from this past Thursday's Dr. Appointment.  The fracture crack has almost disappeared, but the bone chip in the shoulder area is really sore, and that is where the rehab will need to happen.  She is scheduled into physical therapy twice a week starting next Thursday, so we will see how it goes.  She will be able to go with out her arm sling for much of the time, except for when she is doing physical things, or is in a crowd where she could get bumped.  People see her and want to give her a hug, but OUCH...that isn't the best thing right now for her!  Next appointment at the Orthopedic Dr. isn't till Nov 5, so that is encouraging.  Will keep you posted on the progress!    Dan

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Dan,

Thanks for the update on Joyce's recuperation. It sounds like things are coming along and she will soon be well.

I'm glad you got to visit the Museum of Country Life. Not that many get there. When I first visited I thougt it would be boring but it was very interesting. I think the Irish could make Guinness out of straw if the necessity arose! It sure was a staple in the old days.

Michele

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Thursday Aug 13

We awoke to a  great Irish breakfast at Haywood's B&B in the beautiful town of Donegal. The weather sure looked more cooperative today, as we noticed sunshine coming thru the window. We had booked 2 nights at Haywood's, but since we needed to be at the Hospital at 9 AM Friday for a Dr. appointment, we decided we needed to be closer in the 2nd night.  Paddy graciously let us out of our 2nd night reservation, which we had offered to pay for. He wouldn't hear of it.

We stopped downtown to ice our cooler, do some shopping, get some more Euros, and a couple of lattes while we waited for the 10 AM Donegal Castle Tour. It took about 45 minutes, and we were able to use our heritage pass. It was one nicely restored castle, and should not be missed if you ever get to Donegal.

We headed west to try to fit in a couple of stops during our only day in the area, namely the Slieve League Cliffs, and the end of the Kilcar Music Festival. As we neared Kilcar, I had a notion to slip into town and look at the schedule of events for the festival. However, I was fearful of a repeat performance of "marine air" out at the cliffs like we experienced at the cliffs on Achill Island, so we headed to Slieve League straight away. Went out to the Teelin Pier, then turned off on a very narrow winding road uphill. We arrived at the lower car park.

Some people were opening the livestock gate ( meant to keep the sheep contained in their upper pasture) and cars were driving on in. We were concerned about how rough the road might be, and since some were walking up the hill, and Joyce wasn't keen about us driving up, we parked in the lower lot. Gathered my backpack and camera and headed up the road by myself. It was nearly a 30 minute trip each way, and even though the parking area above was rather small, I wish now that we would have driven up so that Joyce could have taken in the spectacular views.

There were all kinds of cars, vans, minibusses, and motorcyles up there, and many people were having a picnic lunch in this amazing scenic splendor. Spent over 30 minutes there looking over the edge, watching the birds, and the pounding waves in the coves below, and making numerous attempts to capture it all on my camera. I got some great shots, but it just isn't the same as seeing it in person.

We had a light lunch in the car, then headed back toward Kilcar. The town looked really dead....not like a music festival at all. There had been big signs posted on both entry ways into town, and it was the last day and night of the event. I stopped into a likely looking pub, only to find out that the step dancing exhibition had taken place just about the time we went by Kilcar that morning on the way to the cliffs. Murphy's law strikes again!cry All that was scheduled for the afternoon was a singing class.

I went to the community center where that was taking place to see if it was open to the public. Met 2 of the singing students eating lunch during the mid day break. I inquired if I might sit in and listen. They said generally not....but....since there was only 4 students, the teacher might allow a visitor. Sure enough, she agreed and I sat in on a good hour of Gaelic songs. One gentleman was in his early 60's, the other about 30ish. The 2 young gals were about 10 and 12. The girls were very talented, and had been doing solo work at some of the sessions at Pubs during the week long festival.

After the lesson was over (the final one for them) we had an informal chat. They wanted to know what my name was and I told them. The teacher, a middle age lady from Northern Ireland remarked what a coincidence....Her maiden name was Murphy, and 2 of the students last name was also Murphy. It was hard to believe there was that many Murphys in a group of 6 in 1 small singing class in Northwest Ireland!smile

They invited me to attend the final big event of the festival: "Echo of the Glen" music session that night. They had revived an old tradition of having 2 sets of musicians, one on either side of a glen or valley that led down to the ocean. They would take turns playing and it would echo back and forth over the glen. Too bad we had to miss it, due to the Dr. appointment Friday.

We headed back east bound towards Donegal, and made it a point to stop for an early dinner at "Baskins" Restaurant in Dunkineely, between Kilcar and Donegal. It was early, 4:30PM but decided we just could not pass up a place that was touted on another Irish Web sight as: The best fish and chips in all of Ireland. We had asked several locals during the day, and everybody agreed it was the best, 2nd to none. So we tried it and indeed it was the best we found the whole 15 days.

On back to Donegal, and took the bypass around the east side, and headed on south thru Sligo, and on down to Tubercurry. The Pub owner in Kilcar had shown me a brochure about an "Irish Night" at Kilronan's Pub in Tubercurry, including step dancing, set dancing, Trad Irish music and traditional Irish food. As we arrived in Tubercurry, I spotted the Pub, and noticed that there was a Hotel/B&B right across the street: "Murphy's Hotel" How could we go wrong with that, so we inquired, found they had a vacancy and checked in.

We did have some time to do a few sinks of laundry, and I went down to the pub for a Guiness, but managed to get talked into a pint of Bulmer's Apple Cider. I had noticed that it was a popular drink with the younger crowd, and particularly with the women. I was not impressed! Was wishing for a Guiness shortly. Rested up, played cribbage, and freshened up for Irish Night at Kilronans.

Wandered over there to get a prime seat about 8:30PM. It was to be held in a large open room off to the side of the main Pub, and was complete with a stage area for the musicians, a large table right below the stage that contained the makings for a feast, and then tables and chairs around the perimeter of the open dance floor area.

About 9 PM the musicians appeared, a Father and family group of 5. The 4 offspring ranged in age of 13 to 20. They played celtic harp, flute, banjo, guitar, fiddle, and accordian. What a refreshing performance by a very talented family. They played about 1 1/2 hours of music, which included 3 sets of step dancing by more young kids from another local family, who were also very good. Their foot work was incredibly swift and flashy. The audience was very impressed. Next was a set dance, with local adults particpating, and it reminded me of American square dancing, using some of the same formations and steps. It was also a very active dance with much footwork.

Then it was chow time. We had barely recovered from Baskin's fish and chips, but managed to sample: Mashed potatoes, thin and thick potato pancakes, BBQ chicken wings and drummies, BBQ ribs, homemade bread and hand churned butter...yum! There was a delicious "Porter Cake" a heavy fruit cake and it tasted like it might have some kind of liquor in it. There was no charge for any of the food, and was served complimentary by the owners of the Pub. We learned that it was an ongoing summer event there, every Thursday night in July and August. It was a great night for a wonderful small town Irish experience.

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Friday Aug 14

Got up for an early departure for Castlebar for the 9AM Dr appointment. The Hotel/B&B didn't serve breakfast till 8AM, so had to have yogurt and fruit in the car on the road. I had mentioned in an earlier post, that we had found a low tire on our rental car when we picked it up at Shannon airport. After it had been parked for 3 days in Galway, it was once again low. We figured it must have a slow leak. We filled it, and then had to fill it every other day after that. However, at 7:15 on this particular morning, we found it nearly flat. So I quickly put the spare tire on, and was still on the road to Castlebar by 7:30. We arrived at the hospital on time, but had a 2 hour wait to see a Dr. They took no xrays, but determined that her shoulder was sagging a little, so prepared a pad to put under her arm to hold it away, push the shoulder up a little, and hopefully allow the fractures to heal straight. They gave her an additional pad, so that the pads had 24 hours to air-out a little between uses. The plaster nurse also advised us to get XL orXXL t-shirts or blouses that would fit on over the shoulder sling, so that the arm would not be disturbed two times a day to dress and undress. The Dr. once again assured us that we made the right decision to remain in Ireland and let things heal as much as possible. We were on the road by 11:30 AM.

Our original plans was to spend the next 2 days in the Sligo area, but we knew we didn't want to drive all the way back up to Sligo, for our next reservation, as we had a tire issue to deal with and clothing to buy for Joyce. We called our Sligo B&B and asked if we could cancel our reservation. Under the circumstances, they agreed to it. We opted instead to make the much shorter journey to Westport, where we missed out on a half day due to the accident.  There was a big tyre repair business, and a large Tesco department store that we remembered seeing on the east side of town. We managed to barely find a room in Westport within easy walking distance of downtown on a Friday night, as a huge motorcycle rally was being held  there. Got the last room at McCarthy's guesthouse, on the west side of down town, but still within an easy 2 block walk to the main squre. We made this reservation thru the Tourist Information office, the first time we ever used this type of service.  At 2 PM, it was too early to check in, but with the reservation secured, we were able to take care of the tyre and the clothing shopping. The tyre did have a slow leak, which they fixed for 10 Euro. Found some suitable blouses at Tesco that made the morning dressing process much easier and less painful. Westport was very congested, traffic wise, so we were glad to park the car for the rest of the day, down at McCarthy's B&B.

Checked into our room about 4 PM. We did some laundry in the sink, then walked down town to do some shopping. In the process, we got on a hunt for Banoffi Pie. After several stops, we managed to find some at "Mangos" restaurant. It was pricey (6.50 Euro for 1 slice) but we just had to try it once, after hearing so many good comments about it on the internet. We got it in a take-away container, and then went on to look for another Irish meal that we had not yet had, one we had really enjoyed 3 years ago....Bacon and Cabbage. Finally found it on the menu at the Clock Tower Pub. It was just ok...not as good as we remembered from before.

Went back to the B&B to rest and a quick game or 2 of cribbage. We celebrated my victories by sharing the Banoffi Pie....WOW what a treat....we were both hooked. From that day on, we searched for banoffi pie in every city we were in for the rest of our time in Ireland, but came up empty handed. It had to be one of the best desserts I've ever had! Joyce has recently found the recipe on the internet, so will try making it at home!

I struck out on my own for the evening, searching for trad music in the pubs. John's Pub nearby had a sign in the window, so went in to listen. It was pretty good...stayed about an hour and then decided that Matt Molloys was hard to beat, so headed over there. Sure enough, it was jam packed again, and the music was fantastic. As before, there were about 10 younger folks playing, most in the 16 to 25 year old age group. Stayed there about an hour, then headed back to the B&B to rest up for our planned trip up to Ceide Fields the next day. Ceide Fields wasn't on our original itinerary, but it seemed like it might be a more laid-back area to get in some windshield sight seeing, since Joyce really didn't feel up to doing a lot of outside type of activities. With the Dr appt, flat tire, and shopping, we really didn't feel like we got much out of a day of tourism in Ireland, but made the best of the situation. I decided that a so-so day in Ireland, is about 100 times better than a good day at work!!!smile

-- Edited by murphy on Sunday 4th of October 2009 09:20:33 AM

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Dan,

It is amazing how accommodating the Irish are when an accident occurs. Changing plans when that happens is not a bother to them. I'm glad that your experiences were good even though Joyce had an accident. It sounds like you adjusted to the changes very well.

Michele

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Hi Dan:

Been thinking about going to Westport next trip -- was it as good as you thought it would be?  How was your B&B?

Thanks,


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Sounds like a good treat looks really, good check out one of many links I found: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art6713.asp
youngka

-- Edited by youngka on Monday 5th of October 2009 04:55:37 PM

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Sidz,

We stayed 3 nights in Westport initially, and then one more night after the Dr. appointment, and we really enjoyed it.  So much so, that  we decided we  wanted to return there after the Dr. appointment, having missed out on a half day and evening there, because of Joyce's accident. We found the B&B (Abbey Court) (abbeycourt@utvintert.com  to be great! Kate and Maurice have emailed us twice, inquiring about Joyce's condition, once being just today! We gave them a good rating on Trip Advisor. It was clean, comfortable, and was a short easy walk just east of downtown Westport.  Ask for the king bed!   Believe me you do not want to depend on finding parking in Westport, especially during July and August. We found it most convenient to arrange all of our B&B's in NW Ireland except one, within a 5-10 minute walk of downtown, and it worked out great for us. After spending hours in the car touring around all day, it is nice to park it in the evening and not have to worry about driving after dark, parking, and then driving back to the B&B after a couple of pints at the pub.

As I may have stated elsewhere on this websight, Kenmare is still our favorite smaller Irish town, and Westport would be a close 2nd. Clifden looked like another town we might have enjoyed spending some time in, being near the sky drive and its location near the Atlantic Coast.

Westport offers a base for good day trips, has good shopping, pubs, and restaurants, and is overall a friendly place. I highly recommend it.  Dan

-- Edited by murphy on Tuesday 6th of October 2009 12:04:51 AM

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Hello! I've been reading along on this site as I plan my own trip to Ireland next summer but didn't have anything constructive to say until now. =) For the Banoffi pie try this link:

http://www.iandowding.co.uk/index.html

The site has the original recipe with interesting background on the pie (plus more recipes of his). As long as you keep the cans covered with water while boiling there's no problem and it is WELL worth the effort! Unbelievably delicious.




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