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Post Info TOPIC: OLD REPORT -- JUNE 2005 'Round Ireland in A Mini-Bus' -- The Guilty Pleasures Tour!#1


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OLD REPORT -- JUNE 2005 'Round Ireland in A Mini-Bus' -- The Guilty Pleasures Tour!#1

I thought I would transfer over some of my OLD Trip Reports, in case anyone is interested/curious :

           JUNE 2005 'Round Ireland in A Mini-Bus' -- The Guilty Pleasures Tour

Been back from our trip since mid-June, but things have kept me absent from the boards. A detailed, no-holds-barred report WILL follow, but for now, I am posting this link to a photo albumn of PART of our trip.

Four of us departed Orlando on 3 June, connecting in Boston with two more. We flew in and out of Shannon on American Airlines. The two that met us in Boston returned on the 11th, but we original four remained until the 15th of June. Seventh trip in six years for my wife and I, so we were well organized, with all details finely tuned and well planned.
Chaos ensued ... lives were ruined ... everything went awry ...

Can't wait to go back!!!


And so the story begins.....

The plan was simple, my wife and I would head to Ireland on the last day of school (post planning), on the early afternoon of 3 June, bringing her brother John and his wife Pam along for their first ever trip abroad. At our lay-over in Boston, my wife's cousin Dennis (who had backpacked around Ireland in 1970, as a 17 year old) and his 19 year old son Ben would join us. As this was trip seven, for my wife and I, I had done all the planning, made all the reservations, etcetera. Dennis and Ben had to return home on the 12th, but we were remaining until the 15th. I had wanted to stay longer, but our son's wife was scheduled to deliver our first grandchild on the 27th and our daughter was due to deliver around the 5th of July and my wife was nervous enough about the schedule that we compromised on the shorter trip.

I had reserved a 7 passenger Kia Sedona from Atlas Car Hire and a one week rental at a self catering house on the river at Kilorglin, Co. Kerry. In addition, we would arrive at Shannon on the morning of another suprise 40th birthday party (see my trip report from last year). The self-catering was booked Sat. to Sat. but we had planned to spend Sat and Sunday with the cousins in Cork (Watergrasshill) then do a ciruitous, driving tour through West Cork on Monday, enroute to Kilorglin. From there, we planned to day trip to Killarney and Dingle. with a return to Watergrasshill on the 11th. On the 12th, Dennis and Ben would head to the airport and we planned to set off exploring.

"No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy."

My wife and I have undoubtably won 'WORST GRANDPARENTS OF THE YEAR'. At 4 AM we were NOT awoken by my son-in-law's frantic call that he was chasing the ambulance toward the hospital. We DID, however, hear the phone rin an hour later to tell us that our grand-daughter had just arrived (32 days early), and that daughter and grand-daughter were both fine. Our immediate response was to cancel the trip and rush toward South Florida, but ...

ALL the reservations and deposits were in my name, the discount tickets were non-refundable, the cousin's had scheduled the party around our travel dates ... AND ... our son-in-law urged us to go ahead with our trip, as he was taking the next two weeks off from work anyway ... AND ... our daughter graciously insisted we go, as well. We had taken them with us the previous summer and both of them had fallen in love with Ireland. They're good kids, those two.

Of course, our daughter WAS heavily medicated, at the time. Dunno how much THAT factored into her magnaminity!
So, of course, we went ahead, feeling only a slight twinge of guilt that could do nothing other than grow.

Boston was uneventful, but hectic as we searched out a signal for the cell phone to check in on the status of our baby and HER baby, meet up with our companians and get ready for our flight to Shannon. The 757 narrow body was close to sold out so no joy in finding any empty seats to stretch out in, but mercifully, the flight was uneventful.

Dennis informed us that he had booked a small car for he and Ben to use for side excursions (read: 'golf') and to get back to the airport without us having to drive them (since they were leaving early). He had followed my lead and booked it through Atlas and couldn't stop raving about how friendly and efficient they had been. He was especially impressed at how Atlas had phoned him that very morning, to verify his flight number and arrival time. I was pretty impressed too, though I must confess that a small TOUCH of apprehension furrowed my brow, as they hadn't phone me about MY reservation. Still, I had my confirmation email and a good memory from a previous rental that had gone well, so I shook it off.

It was cold and rainy when we landed at Shannon, about 8 AM. I left the group to deal with the luggage and breezed through Customs and Immigration, to beat the crowds to the rental desk and indulge my thwarted desire for burnt tobbaco. As I entered the Arrivals Hall, I heard a page for Dennis and mid-way to the rental counters, I spied a woman holding up a sign with HIS name on it.

"Are you looking for Dennis ____?" I asked.
"Yes", she replied. "I'm with Atlas Car Rental -- here to deliver his auto. Are you him?"
"No, but he's with our group", says I. "He'll be along shortly. But I have a reservation, too. Are you delivering my vehicle, as well?"

Her look spoke volumes, and every page of it spelled out TRAGEDY.

"But, we weren't expecting YOU until later this afternoon," she muttered. I must admit, I muttered a few things myself, but I don't think that I will repeat them, here.

The upshot was that she secured us a Renault Scenic from Irish Car Rentals and we finally hit the soggy streets about 9:30. The four of us were quite comfortable in the Renault, though it is substantially smaller than the Kia I had reserved. We decided we could live with it, since Dennis and Ben had their own vehicle, and after a brief stop in Bunratty to do a 'we're in a foreign country, dead-tired and driving on the wrong side of the road in unfamiliar vehicles' "reality check", we set off toward Limmerick, searching for a place to stop for breakfast.By the time we got back on the road, the rain had stopped completely. By the time we reached Cork City, the sky had turned blue and the sun was shining brightly.

We checked into Ashgrove House B&B in Watergrasshill for quick showers and naps, after phoning up the cousins to make arraingements to meet.

That afternoon (Sat, 4 June), we finally got through to our daughter via cell phone and her husband promised to email some digital pix to us via the Irish cousins. Then we set off for Sean's house with minimal guilt pangs. After warm greetings, we were dragged to the kitchen table, were we were fed graciously and abundantly.
The large back yard had been turned into a gigantic party venue. They had set up a giant (30 by 60, at least) tent in the far corner of the yard, to house the three DJ's, a buffet table and the open bar, that would still provide ample room for dancing. In the far right corner was a huge bonfire area, ringed in by rows of hay bales. Closer in to the house were numerous set ups of patio furniture table and chairs. Off to the left side was a 10 x 10 canopy, beneath which, Dick 'The Pig Man', had been hard at work since early in the day, slow roasting a whole pig, to his customary level of perfection.
Most of the younger cousins scurried about, putting together the finishing touches of auxillary lighting, portable radiant heaters, trash bins and decorations.

The guest of honor was at a day spa and beauty parlor, getting herself all done up for her niece's christening (which, as it turned out, was not actually scheduled). All the prep and set up had been done after she had left that morning. When she finally arrived at 7 PM, WAS SHE EVER SUPRISED!!!

The food was to die for and the party atmosphere was totally infectious. Even the normally staid and quiet young Ben was soon having a raucous good time. The young DJ were apparantly quite reknowned in the area. All three are talented singers and used their kareoki (sp?) equiptment to good advantage. About 10 or so, they turned the microphone over to Dick, who regaled the crowd with several lengthy and bitterly funny stories. It is interesting to note that nearly everyone -- young and old alike -- listened and genuinely enjoyed Dick's interlude. Sone after, numerous party goers made their way to the microphone to try their hand (as it were) a sarenading the crowd with old ballads, pop favorites and,of course, a requisite number of Elvis tunes. Some were suprisingly good and some were, well, not so much, but no one seemed to mind, neither listeners, nor perpretators.

We had come prepared THIS year, we thought. We wouldn't 'wimp out' at 1 or 1:30 like we did last year. Still, by 3:30 we were finally undone, creeping back to our B&B to collapse.
The party went on without the Yanks. I found out later, that they served a wonderful breakfast, about 7:30.

Ah, well. Sean's third daughter turns 40 in 2007. Maybe, if we start training for it now, we might manage to weather THAT party, in its entirety!


Day Two: Recovery

We spent a liesurely Sunday making phone calls home and recovering from the night before. As the youngster and the ladies napped, I drove the guys up into Fermoy for a brief walkabout, so my brother-in-law could search out a few cigars. Upon our return to the B&B, we decended upon the cousins for some quiet time visiting. Had to drag our traveling companions away so that our hosts might finally get some well-needed rest. Our Ireland newbies couldn't believe that it was almost 10:30 PM, since the sun light had not yet fully faded! Ireland in the summer will do that.
We've found that the early afternoon nap of an hour or two on the day of arrival really does an excellent job of minimizing/eliminating problems with jet lag. I heartily recommend it for all.

John, Dennis and I walked down the street to the Fir Tree Pub, for a bedtime pint. We seemed to be quite welcome, as the "Yank" cousins, from the party. Pip, an off-duty barman had been the bartender at the party and he made it a point to introduce us to all his mates. We spent a pleasant hour or so reminicing and telling tall tales about the party, each other, our Irish cousins and the locals at the pub. Pip was getting ready to move to Australia (I suppose he has probably left, by now), so lots of well-wishers stopped by to have a word and Pip dragged them into our conversation.
Really hated to call it a night, but
it was getting late, and West Cork and Kerry were awaiting us in the morning.

After a lovely breakfast, we bid adieu to Mary Cronin's B&B. When we asked to settle our bill, she asked if 25 Euro PPS per night was acceptible to us! God, we love that woman.

My wife's granmother was born in the hills surrounding Drimoleague. We drove our little mini-caravan out through Cork City and took the West Cork route through Bandon and Dunmanway and on into the village of Drimoleague. We took an early lunch break for soup and sandwiches at the Drimoleague Inn and let John and Dennis soak up a little of the village atmosphere, before leading them to the Catholic cemetary where their great-grandmother is buried. Then I drove them off into the wilds, meandering off onto a boreen off of a dirt road off of a semi-paved one. Then we found it -- the 100+ year old farmhouse of Cousin Liam. Liam is a retired school teacher from Cork City who had only been too eager to leave the farm in his youth. Years later, he heard it calling him back and he bought this place, so that his children wouldn't grow up as purely 'city kids'. They spent their summers there and Liam wiles away many a weekend there as well. If you've seen the pictures I linked to this, you may understand why.

Liam's youngest son was there and we spent about an hour or so visiting with him and walking about the place, soaking up the scenery. Liam keeps a small herd of cows. It's considered impolite to ask about the size of a man's property, so I'm not really certain how much land is with the house and just how much pasture is held in commonage, but it is a soothing and amply satisfing place. There is a rath, or stone ring, 'fairy fort' in the lower field, heavily overgrown with brush but otherwise undisturbed, and you can see Castle Donovon off in the distance.
After we left the farm, we rejoined the "main" road and drove past Deelish, past the Castle and on, up the mountain.

 If you've read my "11 DAY JUNE TRIP REPORT (2004)", you can plot out the route, but --- IT'S NO ROUTE FOR THE SQUEAMISH!!!

Along the road we saw numerous sheep and even a lively, red fox.
I led them through the switchbacks and along the narrow, muddy track that crawls up to the top, and then down again, into the valley of Coomleigh. It is here, that the OTHER Cousin Sean lives; this place is home to the infamous sheep shearing incident of 2004. I stop to point out the landmarks - Sean's farm, Nowen Hill and the barns and homes of the people my wife and I have come to know, but then we turn left, instead of right and make our way into Bantry. Before our trip, Sean had told us that he had "something really special" planned for this visit, but he had fallen ill in May. We drove on, to the hospital, in order to visit him


The 'cousins' in this case are the first cousins of my wife's FATHER, and are in their 70's and 80's. While we are closer in age to their children (whom I also refer to as cousins, for simplicity's sake), you can see that the actual relationship is slightly more tenuous. Sean is almost 82 as I write this and still as alive and unique as ever. He is an unrepentant bachelor that has a tendancy to to be a bit bruske and, at times, difficult. For some reason he has developed a strong attatchment to my wife and I and to the suprise of many of his friends, relatives and neighbors, he has gone to GREAT lengths to be excedingly gracious and welcoming to us. Now that he is retired from farming, he usually just sits by the open fire in his parlour and chain smokes as he shouts and yells at the newsreaders on the television. While he was in hospital, he wasn't allowed to smoke, of course, and actually seemed quite fit as we met with him.


While we were having a very nice and reassuring visit, Sean took my wife aside and apologized that he wasn't able to show us his 'suprise' as planned. Don't tell any of his cousins, though. The last time that we mentioned that Sean had apologized to us for not spending enough time with us, one of the older cousins - with a look of shocked disbelief on her face, crossed herself and said: "God save him. He must be near death."
The Irish, on whole, DO have a WICKED sense of humor, but I swear that she seemed totally sincere.

At the hospital, we met up with anouther cousin Dennis, that had come to check in on Sean. He went with us to the Bantry Hotel for coffee and desert, while we opted for an early dinner. My sister in law mentioned her disappointment that the hotel had run out of rubarb pie, so while we were settling up the bill, Dennis dashed off to a local shop and returned with not one, but SIX whole rubarb pies -- one for each of us!

After we said our thank yous and goodbyes, we headed out of town, through the Caha Pass into Killarney. Along the way we stopped at the Quill's in Glenngarriff, at Moll's Gap and Ladies' View, and once again near the entrance to Muckross House to take pictures of the small herd of Red Deer that were graving in the field along the side of the road.
By about 7PM, we were in Killorglin, getting settled into our self-catering holiday home along the bank of the river.
It would be nearly four more hours, before it actually got dark.

While many might be / are amazed by Sean's treatment of my wife and I, I am not. My wife's father Jack is our Irish link. His father was born in Millstreet, and his mother came from Drimoleague. Back in the early 70's all Jack's siblings made their way to Ireland, except for him. With nine children to raise, he could spare neither the time, nor the money. For his 40th wedding anniversary, all of us chipped in to give them the money to go, but Chernoble happened and the US bombing of Libya and the chose to travel domestically, instead.

In 1999, my wife demanded that WE go to Ireland and we bullied and cajoled Jack into coming with us. He was 81 and his eyesight was growing pretty dim, but he finally made the trip, to the great joy of the Irish cousins. The next summer, we took Jack and his wife with us, again.

Now, in 2005, Jack is 87 and nearly blind. That monumental a trip is beyond him. But Sean has great affection for us, I've no doubt -- because WE brought Jack Doody "home".


Day Four: R&R

Dennis, Ben and John had brought their golf clubs, so the ventured out Tues. morning in single-minded dedication. They had their hearts and minds set upon a round at Dooks, but somehow ended, instead, challenging the couse in Killorglin. Dennis swears that it wasn't that he couldn't find his way to Dooks, but I have my doubts.
While they were off on their adventure, I drove the ladies into Killarney. Two of the cousins (both last year's and this year's birthday girls) had rang us up, suggesting that we meet for lunch.

After a bit of shopping and a quick drop in to the internet shop next to the Tourist Office, we met the cousins and retired to the Granary for a liesurely chat unencumbered by the distractions of the partying masses. While the ladies chatted, I slipped out to the little shopping arcade sandwiched between the Granary and the Tesco. Just to the right at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor, is a music store (the name escapes me, but I've had good luck finding things there, in the past). Good to my hunch, they actually had a few copies of an obsure cassette tape by the defunct group GLIONDAR. I snatched up two eagerly, as the former lead singer of GLIONDAR was / is my wife's and my very dear friend, Ciaran Wynne (see my 11 Day June Trip Report). Recognizing a good thing, the salesman also sold me a copy of a new CD by Eugene Brosnan (SOLID GROUND)---- which is not bad, and the newest CD by a group called ALANNA, titled BLURRING THE LINE. He said I might like it since most of the members of ALANNA (excluding the lead singer, Catherine Teahan) were former members of GLIONDAR. The clerk was mistaken. After giving the CD a quick listen, I didn't like it -- I was SMITTEN! What a great sounding CD. Everyone should own a copy. Put it along side NO WAY HOME and TURQUOISE & BROWN, by Ciaran Wynne and expect to play them in heavy rotation. My wife and I love music (of all kinds), but we can't go too long without a frequent 'dose' from one of these three CDs.

After scoring my little stash of musical treasure(s), a hurried back to the Granary, where the conversation had gone on unabated and managed to snatch the tab away from our over-generous cousins. Luch lasted for a couple of hours, until the cousins reluctantly addmitted that they reall needed to leave, if they were ever going to make it to Tralee (AND BACK HOME) as they had intended.
We made our way back to Killorglin after that, arriving just as the lads were returning. After time for clean up, phone calls home and a bit of discussion about our respective days, we all set off in the Renault, for dinner in Millstreet.

The Renault Scenic is a wonderful touring vehicle for four adults. It sits high up, has lots of glass all around (including a large sunroof) ANDprovides Great visibility. The seats are spacious and comfortable and the power is smooth and well suited to all types of conditions. It is a GREAT Touring Vehicle --- for FOUR adults.
For six (three of them tall adult males, it is not so great. There are two akwardly situated jump seats that fold up out of the floor of the cargo area that perport to convert the Scenic to a seven passenger -- IF THREE OF THOSE ARE MIGETS !!!

With all six of us loaded into the Renault, I drove back toward Killarney. Just NW of the town, I bore East on the N72 (Killarney - Mallow Road)and followed it into Rathmore. We stopped at the church so that everyone might see where the Great-Grandparents were married in 1865. The church has been remodeled and renovated numerous times since then - most recently, in 2000 - 2002, but there is a touching memorial etched into the wall to the side of the altar, commemorating Father Walsh, who spearheaded the original construction and also officiated at the aforementioned wedding. In typical, rish pragmatism (and practicality), the old church that this building replaced, is now the Old Chapel Pub.

After leaving the church, we drove further East on the R582 and the less traveled road into Millstreet. As I drive, my passengers drink in the wondrous sights -- the Cadbury Chocolate Plant, the inspiring vision of The Paps and the singular magistry of Clara Mountain. Good guide that I am, the names of townlands -- Knocknaloman, Ballydaly, Claratlea, Gortavehy, Ivale, Toorenbawn and Caherbarnagh -- tumble past my lips. Each of these places were home to the laborer Timothy, and his Mary, the young dairy maid, that he wed. These are the places, where the ancestors did dwell. I think they found it meaningful. I think that they were touched. I only know that I, who can claim not a single drop of Irish blood, cannot pass this way unmoved. For me, this is a magical place; a place that resonates within my soul. The hills and vales and mountains call out: 'Here, there be Giants!'. And my soul cannot help but agree.

In Millstreet Town, I took them to the "attractions: Turbrid Holy Well - the 2nd largest spring head in the British Isles, the Award-winning Millstreet Railway Station - north of town, past the lovely River Finnow, Green Glens Arena -- Venue for Irland's 1993 hosting of Eurovision ( and the former estate of the McCarthy - O'Learys), Drishane Castle (once a McCarthy stronghold, appropriated by the English Wallis family after the Restoration), and the old O'Keefe fortress at Kilmedey.
The marvelous O'Connor's eatery has closed, much to my sadness, but Jerry is now chef at The Wallis Arms, so I take our group there for a terrific dinner. After dinner, I drive us out the Old Butter Road (just resurfaced to ease traffic and encourage tourism) onto Mushera. The Butter Road was built in the 1700's as a toll-road, running almost arrow straight from Killarney, past Blarney, into Cork City. Almost exactly 1/2 way between is Millstreet, and until the advent of the railroads, it was a major source of food and lodging to nearly all 18th and 19th century tourists.
High up on Mushera, in the townland of Knocknakilla, I introduced our group to their first close up experience with a dolmen, standing stones, stone rings and stone circles. A liesurely drive back to Killorglin brought our day to an end.

Day Five: Weds, 8 June

Dennis and Ben left early on an independant sojourn to Galway to check out UCG as a possible venue as a Semester abroad. Armed by disappointing news from home that Grand=daughter had developed severe jaundice, the Florida Four headed into Killarney. A stop in to the Internet shop yielded a number of endearing photos of the little miss, which only SOMEWHAT assuaged her Grandmother's guilt at being absent. Our daughter was growing quite upset by her new daughter's health coupled with her Mother's absence. As there was little we could do, short of having my wife return to the US, either: a) alone, b)on Sat with Dennis and Ben (at least as far as Boston), or c)tough it out and stay the course, we opted to scratch a), and keep option b) open.
After some shopping, we stopped in to the Tourist Office and booked four tickets for the Deros Gap of Dunloe Tour for the following morning. Ben is alergic to horses, so they had decided to schedule another golf trip during our absence.
Early afternoon found us at Muckross House, were we toured the House, Gardens and the Traditional Farms. It was a glorious day, 73 - 74 degrees (F) and a bright, blue sky. The Farms weren't very crowded, so we had the opportunity to talk in debth with the resident staff.
After a great afternoon we drove back into Killorglin. Dennis and Ben returned about 7ish, and we made our way to Dev's on the Square, for a delicious, if a bit pricey, supper. Food and service were excellent.
Evening found us sitting on the back deck, sharing stories and watching the river flow by.





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Day Six: Finally Bridging The Gap

As I have mentioned before, this was my wife's and my seventh visit. All but one of those trips have included Killarney, if for no other reason, because of its proximity to Millstreet and Rathmore. Yet, due to pressing constraints of visits with family and friends, we never have found the time to 'do' many of the Killarney TOURIST STUFF. Most regrettable has always been our failure to 'do' the Gap of Dunloe' Tour, replete with jaunting car and local driver.
This was our day to rectify that omission. Though it started hazy, foggy and dreary, the sun soon burnt through and a day even better that the day before greeted us. Dennis and the horse-allergic Ben set off to explore a bit of the Ivereagh and search out a new and different golf course. The Florida four piled into the Renault, popped in the Alanna CD and set off for Killarney. Along the way, the rear passenger tire had a close encounter with yet another ubiquitous Irish pothole, as discretion being the better part of valor, I opted to yield the centerline to the rapidly approaching Semi that seemed oblivious to the concept of roads having different "sides".
Once the echoing scrieks of my passengers subsided, we finished our drive without further ado. I parked in the carpark beside the Tourist Office and then walked up the hill to the Deros Tours office. After a few minutes, a number of buses, large and small drew up and after a few moments confusion, the gathered throng made their way onto (hopefully) the correct bus. After everyone but us had driven off, our driver hopped aboard, plopped down behind the wheel and pulled away from the curb.
"And are ye all looking forward to yer day in Dingle, are ye?" He asked with a face so innocent that a priest might see no need to offer him absolution. Then, to silence the rising panic, he smiled and "confessed" that he was only kidding. "It's Kate Kierny's and The Gap, I'm takin' ye to see."
Well, eventually, maybe.
After we turned off the main road, he muttered something to himself, slammed on the brakes and turned the bus around. We rode back out to the main road, turned right and drove nearly all the way back to Killarney, before turning off again and driving up a long paved drive to a VERY posh hotel. I don't know its name, but they had a Helipad and it looked well-used. Pulling up to the main enterance, the driver leaped from his seat, dashed into the hotel and returned, after a few minutes, with a very stylish and photogenic German couple. Then he turned us back around. Only THEN, did we finally make our way to Kate Kierny's.

After we off-loaded, the ladies went in search of bathrooms, while John and I secured beverages. The jarveys decended on us like wolves spying sheep that have wandered from the safety of the herd. I don't know why, either, since I am led to believe that the rates charged are pre-set. Maybe they mistook us as some of those hardy types who chose to actually walk through the Gap!
By the time we were actually ready to depart, we ended up with an entire different driver. His name was Sean (Aren't they all?)and his horse was named Tommy. Sean lives in the Black Valley, in an old farmhouse that he had only just finished restoring. He had gone off to Germany as a young man, but as his children approached school age, he decided to return home. When asked about his wife, Sean was quick to point out that he was unmarried, though he thought that his partner loved Ireland even more than he did.

Sean holds his jarvey license by right of birth. A sister and a brother are also jarveys (she passed us by, at one point, going the other way, calling out and waving, as she did). They are each allowed one full trip through the Gap each day. After that, they will take any 'half-trips' as may come their way, in turn with the others. Perhaps the eagerness to 'get the big trip out of the way early' is what prompts the feverish huckstering at Kate's?
When uphills approach, two of us had to exit the cart, but usually, all four of us would, taking the opportunity to stretch our legs, soak up the sun and pose each other for photo ops.

It must have hit 75 while we were out. We couldn't have had nicer weather. During the riding portions, Sean pointed out sites of interest, discussed life in a post- 9-11 world, and talked about the changes that Ireland has gone through since he was a boy. I'm guess that he was in his early 30's, but I could be off. I won't try to describe the scenery, as my words couldn't possibly do it justice. Occassionally, a car drove by, enroute to a house or B&B along the way. It IS a public road, though motor traffic is discouraged. All the horsecarts and tourists seem discouragement enough, for me. I don't know how a resident could stand driving that road, as slow as the going needs must be.

Eventually, we ended at Lord Bandon's Cottage (which is LONG gone). I was amused to hear so many of the tourists insisting that the little snackbar/souvineer stand was the Cottage. Many of them never even notice the area where the old Cottage had stood, nor the mini-Round Tower, or even, the servant's house below the walls of the Cottage grounds!

We grabbed a bite to eat (soup and sandwiches and cold drinks) and lolled on the grass awhile, then made our way down to the docks for our boat ride through the Lakes.

The boat ride through the Lakes was cool and refreshing. Our boatman and guide both informative and amusing, leaving in a few personal anecdotes and stories to the 'canned tour' speech to make it all the more interesting. Again, the scenery was phenominal and words can't do it justice. There are a few pictures of the Lakes in my link (first entry)that may give you an idea.

The boats pull in at the dock beside Ross Castle. My wife and I had toured it in 2004 and, luckily for us, the ladies were desperate for a bathroom break, so we passed the castle by. I say luckily, because while John and I were waiting for our wives, I bought another soda and in doing so, dropped a ticket stub on the ground. As I was picking it up, I realized that we were already a few minutes late for the return bus to the Deros Office. Rushing to the parking lot, we found everyone already on the bus, impatiently waiting for us. Seems hard to believe that the Tour would bring people to a major tourist attraction like Ross Castle without allowing time to actually do more than walk past the outside! Ah, well. We didn't keep them too long (5 minutes, tops), so 'No Harm, No Foul', I guess. The bus ride back to Killarney was uneventful, as was the walk down to the car park. My parking 'disc' was long expired, but thankfully, I never did get a parking ticket, either at the time, or in the mail, since.

I DID pick up a little 'souvineer memory' though. The rear passenger tire was displaying a large, nasty bulge in the sidewall, coutesy, no doubt, of the morning's pothole. Reasoning that changing the tire would only precede changing it again (no full-size spare), I drove back to Killorglin cautiously, and without incident.

When I rang up the IrishCarRental's service number on the rental agreement, the woman who answered was sympatetic, but otherwise not much help. It may be my imagination, but I swear that she was working from her home. I am certain that I heard children's voices and the clatter of plates in the back ground. She told me that she personally had lost three or four tires in the last year, much the same way and then reiterated that I was responsible for all tire damage. I assured her that I understood my financial responsibility and that the reason I was calling was for assistance, or referral to an approved shop. She couldn't help me there, she said. She wasn't very familiar with Killorglin.

I drove through town, looking for a sign to indicate a Tire Shop, finally finding one tucked into a small building at the rear of a Gas/Grocery Store, where we had previously purchased our self-catering supplies. As it was actually 5 minutes or so past closing time of 5:00 PM, I expected to be told to return in the morning. Instead, the owner checked out the tire and agreed it needed to be replaced and then swung his shop door back open. He had two different tires of the correct size. One was the same brand and model, for 150 Euro and the other was an 'OFF-Brand", that I could have for 100 Euro.
"It's a Rental car, is it?" He asked.
"It is," I replied.
"Then, 100 Euro it is! They'll not notice, nor care." With that, I was back on the road in 15 minutes, new tire on the Renault and credit card slip(charged in EUROs, without me asking, I might add) in hand.

Back at the house, Dennis and Ben had returned. They had played the nine-hole course at the Gap, then driven around the interior and a bit of the Ring, as well.

We walked into town for dinner at the BENZ Cafe (across the square from DEV'S). Benz has been in business a while, but this was only the second day that they had been staying open for dinners. It's a small place. The wait staff was courteous and personable, though a bit confused by all the new changes. The food was EXCELLENT, however, and very reasonably priced. And, based on Bill's (WOJAZZ3)mention, I finally tasted my first Banofee. WOW! It was quite a hit with my crowd (which is why I say that I TASTED it), the little beggars in my group put a pretty good dent in my serving, 'just trying a little taste'!

After dinner, we strolled down to the Bridge Bar (located just beside the bridge) for a live music session by two local fellows on guitar and fiddle.

A brief stroll over the bridge returned us to our house. Tommorrow, the six of us would do Dingle

Day Seven: Dingle and Slea Head

Another hazy, foggy morning, that quickly dissolved into another marvelously warm, and sunny day. Setting off from Killorglin in two cars (Dennis and Ben chosing isolation over cramped discomfort)we made our first stop at Inch, where we dallied in the sand for a brief while. We made brief stops at various turn offs along the way for photos and just to drink in the views. In Dingle, we parked in the car-park at the Marina and took an early lunch at a Cuban cafe, just across the road. The food was delectable, the wait staff friendly, personable and totally inept. For some reason I was craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (go figure)and ordered one from the menu. The young man who waited on us (a non-Irish EU citizen), just couldn't wrap his mind around the concept, I guess, because there was much confusion. When everyone's order arrived but mine, and I reminded him, he nodded, smiled and said, "Yes, yes. I will get.", and then disappeared. About ten minutes later, a young girl (who MAY have been Irish), came to our table to check on us. When I asked her about my PBJ, she went off in search of it. It finally arrived about 5 minutes later, and I must admit that it was well-worth the wait. I'm wondering now, if they had to send someone off, to the market to purchase the ingredients?

After our long lunch, we set off again, driving to the beautiful stone Restraunt (which I have never found open). It sits directly opposite of the Dunbeg Promontary Fort and just below the Famine Cottage (actually, a farnhouse, built in the 1850's, with no real link to the Famine, but it DOES have a nice little history all its own AND a beehive hut, behind the house).

We stopped too, in the carpark below the Three Sisters, where the more energetic of our crew hiked up to the top for photos and viewing. Then we moved on to Loius Mulcahey's to checkout the pottery and pick up a few momentos, before dropping in to the Gallarus Oratory.

After our visit, we headed back into Dingle and then up over Connor Pass, with only a brief stop at the summit. Then we drove into Castlegregory, on through Camp and into Tralee, before finally turning back to Killorglin. That night we ate in, trying to use up our stores and made preparations for our departure in the morning. In the wee hours we were awoken to the news that our second grandchild had arrived (He was twoo weeks early). Now, the guilt would really begin to grow!


Day Eight:

Dennis and Ben set off early for Watergrasshill, so that they could stop by Blarney and do a 'drive-by' of University College Cork (as an alternative to Galway for Ben's semester abroad). The Florida Four headed into Killarney first. We had decided that rather than attempt a two or three day 'whorl-wind tour' that we would 'park' ourselves in Millstreet for two nights and then move up to Bunratty for our last night.
We went by the Internet shop and then John and I went next door to the Tourist Office while the ladies went shopping.

The young girl that waited on us was surprised when we asked her to book us into a B&B in Millstreet. She was from the area and in all her time at the Tourist Office, no one had ever asked to stay in Millstreet. John was looking for the chance to stay on a working farm, so the girl recommended Ballinatona Farm. She seemed amazed that I knew the area so well and truly startled when I started mentioning the names of acquaintances from the area, whom she also knew. I even managed to stump her on a few locations and routes. When she expressed her surprise, John stated that I knew the Millstreet area better than some of its inhabitants. Its not true, but refuting that claim in front of one of my relatives is hardly conducive to maintaining my finely crafted family image, so I said nothing, silently blessing the young ladys inexperience and/or her Irish sense of humor. She rang up Ballinatona, secured our reservations and told us that we might drop off our luggage at 1:00 PM on Sunday, but that we could not check in until 3:00. Some country B&B hostesses are a bit peculiar, the Tourist Office girl told us. She suspected that the hostess might be foreign --German, perhaps -- and that, since Ballinatona was a working farm, 3:00 might be a suitable time, between chores. We agreed, paid our 10% deposit, plus the Tourist Offices small ( 1 or 2 Euro) fee, gathered up our wives and set off for Watergrasshill.

We drove south, into Macroom, then east, through (actually, around) Cork City and took the N8 on to Ashgrove House. After checking in we drove back to Seans house.
Dennis and Ben had already arrived, and once again, we were treated as if the Irish cousins hadnt seen us in years. After a couple hours of lively conversation about our trip so far and updates on what had transpired during our absence, Dennis and Ben bid their farewell to all of us and set out for Bun ratty , so that they might spend the night close to Shannon before flying home the next morning.
The rest of us headed up the road to Seans eldest daughters house for a magnificent meal of salmon, ham and beef, set up buffet style. We sat around her huge kitchen, feeding our faces and spirit. Then, we were off to Midelton to watch the local seniors (over 18 year old) hurling team face off against strong, traditional rivals.

Even with aid of a personal interpreter, Im still not sure EXACTLY how the game is played. Apparently, the slither (a baseball sized, hard leather ball with raised stitching) must be constantly in motion - either hit, thrown, or bounced at the end of vicious looking hurley (looking for all the world like a short hockey stick, with an oversized blade). Also, there are penalties for pushing an opponent down, but whacking him with the hurley is ordinarily acceptable. It was a thoroughly confusing and delightful time, though our local heroes lost the match in the closing moments.
We spent the rest of the evening visiting, then retired to the B&B, after making plans to meet for coffee, tea and home-made scones in the morning.



Day Nine:
Sunday morning broke dull and dreary, but by 10:00 Am, the sky had turned warm and bright. We said our good-byes to Mary Cronin and drove through the village to our cousin's new house for a tour AND the promised home-made scones. Nearly all of Sean's family met us there and it was almost luch time (not that we could have eaten any more!)before we finally said our farewells and got on to the road.
T took the N8 north to Fermoy, and picked up the N72 West, toward Mallow and Killarney. Just a couple of miles west of Mallow there were signs, indicating that the road was closed and advising detours. Being dutiful, unquestioning foreigners, we blindly followed the detour signs that lead us south, and off the marginally wider, National Road onto the tiny, unnamed and unnumbered Regional, and even local roads.

After only a mile or so, all detour signs disappeared entirely and we had to rely upon my vague memories of the area and the occassional, bent and twisted Irish directional signs -- (You see a sign that points, more or less to the RIGHT, that says "Banteer 3", so you turn. Five miles later, you see another sign, pointing back, toward you, but mostly, toward the ground, and IT says: "Banteer 6"). We drove through Rathcoole, Lyre and Banteer and several other towns and townlands (and if ALL the signs were right, some of them we passed SEVERAL times -- AND I PRETTY MUCH KNOW THIS AREA!!! You have got to have a good sense of humor when dealing with rural Irish roads and road signs.

The good part of our meandering is that it only added about 30 minutes or so to our trip and we saw A LOT of gorgeous scenery that otherwise might have been passed by in the rush 'to get there'. Since we were told that we could only drop our luggage off at 1, and couldn't check in until 3:00, we decided to go off exploring a bit. When we finally arrived at the Farm, we thought that we had made a big mistake....


But first, as an aside, I would like to mention a few words about the "considerable town" of Millstreet.

Millstreet sits in northwest Co. Cork at a juncture of roads. From the south, the road up from Macroom passes through a gap between the Boggeragh Mountains to the east and the Derrynasaggart to the west. The River Finnow flows through, on its way to join the mighty Blackwater. It is an area, RICH in history.
When Ireland was first settled in the waning days of the last Ice Age, the area was inhabited by neolitic hunter gatherers, drawn to the mystical high places: the Paps, Clara Mountain, Mushera Mor and Beg. Ordinance Survey maps of the area show relics of that age dotting the landscape. There are raths, and cashels, standing stones, stone circles and rings scattered throughout; the most impressive collection being that at Knocknakilla. An Shrone (The City) is nearby.

During the Celtic Age, the area was home to the OKeefes, McCarthys and the Sullivans and neighbor to the Malloys, Donovans and ODriscolls. King Mahon was murdered atop Mushera while enroute to a peace meeting with Malloy. The foul deed was done by the Desmond clans to remove the upstart from the throne of Munster and replace him with someone more pliable to their schemes. What they reaped, with their treachery instead, was Mahons younger brother -- Brian Boru.

When the Butter Road was built through town in the 1700's, it was a boon to the area. Millstreet bloomed as a convenient resting stop, mid-way between Cork City and Killarney. The 1800's were not so kind. When the railroad was built, the tracks were laid to avoid the village proper. The station sits out of town, to the north, victim to the fears and petty jealousies of the major Landlords in the Big Houses, the Protestant Wallis, the Leaders and the Catholic McCarthy-O'Leary. And so, the tourist trade passed Millstreet by and the town ceased to grow. The major highway (N72) from Mallow to Killarney bypasses Millstreet. A small, Regional Road 'loops down' to pass through town, on its way to reconnect with the N72, in Rathmore, Co. Kerry.

Today, Millstreet functions as a bedroom community for Killarney , Cork City and Mallow; each being nearly equidistant. The Walliss sold out, in the 20s, the Leaders died out, or moved away and the last of the McCarthy-OLearys ( relatives to the OConnors of Caherdaniel) spends her days in Killarney. A local entrepreneur now owns the holdings of both Drishane and Coomlegane. The latterHouse was torn down. In its place stands Green Glen Arena, an equestrian showplace that hosts horse shows, music concerts and other events. In 1003 it was the site of the Eurovision competition, a major international event. Drishane Castle and estate, purchased with the intent to create a luxury hotel and resort, has instead become a haven and housing for an international assortment of refugees.

In short, there is nothing EXCEDINGLY REMARKABLE about Millstreet, but the sum total is greater than the individual parts. The people here are untainted by an overabundance of tourist trade and therefore, neither wear a mask of false greeting, nor display offence or rancor at the presence of outsiders. It is the real Ireland of the 21st century. It is a place of beauty, magic and peaceful reflection; improved by the march of time, yet not polluted by it. It is the land that my wifes ancestors came from, and, in more ways than that, it is a land I would proudly call home. We chose to bring John and Pam here, just as we have brought some of his other brothers and sisters over the years, and his father, before that, so that they could experience that which mere words can not convey.





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Day Nine, Millstreet:

While the main roads MIGHT have had all the signs replaced by new, KM and KPH markings, I can assure all readers that hasn't been universally applied throughout all of rural Ireland, at least as of June. Finally arriving in Millstreet after our circuitous tour, we turned south at the Square, taking the Macroom Road toward our B&B at Ballinatona Farm. The land rises up sharply on both sides of the road, lush and green in a patchwork of stone walled fields. A mile or less from town is a shrine on the left, pointing off toward Knocknakilla. Just south of that, on the right as you continue south is the short, squat stone tower of Kilmedy Castle, and only a few yards farther south is the right hand turn off for the road that winds itself up the hillside to the B&B.
The views are spectacular. The fields are lush and the cows fat and contented. Ballinatona Farm sits about half way up the mountain. It is a modern house, purpose built as a B&B in a large "U" shape, facing West, out over the narrow valley that separates the Darrynasaggarts from the Boggeraghs. Each of the faces of the "U" are walled in glass, built as conservatories to capitalize on the views. The northern one is the dining room, while the southern is two storey, the lower half housing a sitting room, while stairs lead up to the upper half which is a bedroom. Were that we might have stayed in THAT room, but sadly, it was already taken! Still and all, the two rooms we did secure were large,bright and comfortable, so we have no complaints in that regard. All rooms are, of course, en-suite. Just down from the house is a parking area. From there, a moderately steep paved sidewalk leads up to the front door. As we stood about the car, drinking in the views, our hostess emerged from the front door and we got our first inkling that our stay at Ballinatona was not going to be a typical Irish B&B experience. Jetta presented an imposing figure -- lean, athletic and muscular. She is somewhere between her 50s and 60s, as best as I can guess and decidedly Tutonic in appearance and demeanor.

"You are late," she announced. "You have RUINED my day. Down on your knees!"

(I kid you not, folks. Before I started to write this section of the trip report, I double checked with John and Pam and my wife, to make sure that I did not mis-represent, nor misquote). We turned to look at each other, stunned. John quietly reminded us that 'We don't HAVE to stay here' and Pam, speaking more loudly, replied that we had been told that we couldn't occupy our rooms until after 3:00, so had felt no rush to arrive sooner, just to drop off our luggage.
"And you did not even call." She stated.
"No", I repeated. "The girl at the Tourist Board in Killarney said that we could not check in, until AFTER 3:00."
"That was not what they told me. I will have to call them and have words. They are supposed to be professionals! But, come, you are here now. I will show you your rooms."
With that, she turned and went in side, as if inviting (or merely, permitting) us to enter. A brief conference took place there in the parking area as we decided that: a)

It WAS a working farm (high on our list); b) The house appeared to be beautiful and well-maintained; and, c) the views from here were TO DIE FOR! We decided to at least check out the rooms, and see how it went. The house is ideally suited. Within the front door is a mud-room style enclosed entry. Beyond ITS door is a small reception area, replete with a small desk and floor to ceiling bookshelves, filled with a wide assortment of travel related (and socialogical books, magazine and pamphlets covering vast and far flung locales (Southeast Asia, Tibet, Euope, the Middle East). A short set of steps down there is a landing with a small, lighted fountain. From there is the sitting room to the with three or four bedrooms to the rear. Our hostess seemed to have dismissed the issue of our tardiness -- she was all coolly efficient as she showed us the common areas and pointed out the two rooms that were reserved for us. Were we interested in hill walking or hiking, she advised that we could not have chosen a better place to stay. Just be mindful of the bulls when cutting through the fields and we would thoroughly enjoy ourselves, she said. With some small sense of apprehension, we decided to stay. In retrospect, it was a wise decision and I honestly believe that I would stay there again, in spite of our rather unorthodox greeting.

Perhaps it is because of what happened later. My wife thinks so, but I would like to think otherwise.

After a brief pause to unwind, we were back off, upon the road, in order to show off the town and its environs to John and Pam. With just the four of us, the Renault was roomy and comfortable and the large areas of glass and slightly higher stance afforded excellent visibility for viewing the countryside. I drove around, pointing out the townlands where the Great-grandparents had lived and the grandfather had been born, letting everyone soak in the atmosphere and sense of traversing the same ground that he had walked. We stopped in to the Wallis Arms for another dinner that couldn't be beat. Throughout it all, I kept calling and asking for information about a local acquaintance, but was having precious little luck.

I first had the great good fortune of meeting Sean Radley on my second visit to Ireland. My wife and I brought her father and mother for two weeks in June of 2000, on the occassion of the 120th birthday of Jack's father. As part of our visit, I arrainged to meet Sean at the Museum so that Jack could have the opportunity to seek answers to numerous questions raised by our research.

Sean pulled out all the stops, welcoming Jack like a long lost brother and making him an 'honorary citzen' of Millstreet. It doesn't matter that Sean may or may not actually have any authority to do so. Everyone in Millstreet and the surrounding area knows Sean. He is a teacher at the National School, semi-official photo, video and audion recorder of all events, founding member of the LTV2 local access television station, unofficial historian and curator of the local museum. In his spare time, he enjoys travelling, domestically and abroad. He is a remarkably delightfully entertaining and enlightening individual -- a true 'character' in his own right.

I finally received a text message from Sean as we were returning to Ballinatona. He had been at a wedding in Waterford, but would be returning to Millstreet. He arrainged to meet with us the next afternoon. Upon our return to the B&B, John and Pam struck up a pleasant coversation with Tim, our host. From him, we learned that his family had owned this farm for many generations. The current house is at least the third built upon this mountain, each one erected progressively closer to the Macroom Road, 'trying to hasten our escape', as he put it. Tim's sister lives above, in the old house and helps Jetta with the cooking and cleaning. They only farm part-time now and then spend three months of the year traveling. Tim is as lithe, lean and charming as any Irish farmer that I have ever met. Jetta is Danish. They have no children. Tim made us feel very welcome, indeed.

Delighted, we settled into the sitting room at the Farm, looking out down the hillside and watching the long shadows racing over the fields. During that time we compared notes and reviewed our digital pictures. Jetta came in, asking if our afternoon had gone well and what we planned for tommorrow. I can't say that we were rude to her, but we definitely were unfriendly. We told her that we planned to visit Commenatrush Falls along with a few other sites and then meet with 'my friend' in town.
"You have friends here, in Millstreet?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied. We're meeting Sean Radley, in the afternoon."

Now my wife and inlaws claim that from that very moment, our hostess bent over backwards to give us the best of all possible treatment and that it was a direct result of my "name-dropping". I am not so thoroughly convinced, however. I prefer to believe that we had merely misinterpretted her original tone and demeanor and that her true nature was what we experience after the first few minutes.

The next morning we had the best, farm fresh Irish breakfast that I believe that I have ever had. Jetta hovered over us, seeing to it that none of us wanted for anything. She did the same for her other guests, as well, which pretty much seems to bolster MY take on things. They were also Americans, a family of four from the mid-west, with the two children being in their early teens. They left early on, enroute to Shannon, for a flight out the next day.
Jetta offered up lots of interesting information about the Falls, the new Wind Generating Farm (on mountain bog-land leased from her and Tim and numerous other area attractions.

So, I'm thinking, we just got off to a bad start, but given time, everything worked out. My companions say I'm wrong, that it is WHO YOU KNOW.


Day 10: More Millstreet, More Babies and More of the cousins:

The day bloomed glorious and sunny. After the aforementioned, ultimate breakfast, we set out to further tour the area. Heading back toward Millstreet on the Macroom Road (the R582, for purists)we turned left onto the road leading past Kilmedy Castle and meandered back onto the mountain. I had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to be from my Discovery Series #79 map and from Jutta's directions and shortly after found us at the Wind Farm. There, in the bowl shaped bog, atop the mountain, they had already erected about a dozen wind turbines, with plans to add 30+ more, eventually. All of the shiny, white turbines were sitting idle, blades tethered and there was no active construction going on (it was a Monday) so I've no real idea how much noise/turbulence/environmental intrusion the giant generating fans might produce when they and their absent companions are all at work, but the idea is certainly intriging in a post-Katrina/Wilma US environment of nearly $3 per gallon gasoline (and who knows how much per gallon, for heating oil and natural gas??).

Just down from the wind farm, I pulled off the road and we walked through the field to the southern ridge, where we discovered that we were actually at the top of the sought after Falls! After enjoying the views and the truely perfect weather for a while, we did a little amature orienteering and realized where we needed to go to access the pool at the bottom of the falls (climbing down a few hundred feet of EXCEDINGLY steep, rocky slope was not a permissible option, said Pam and Patricia!).
What we finally discovered is that we needed to turn off the Macroom Road just as if going to the B&B, save for the last turn off, where the sideroad forks. Ballinatona is the left fork but bearing right, instead took us about a 1/2 mile more to the north, ending at an old farmhouse heavily signposted with FOR SALE and NO TRESSPASSING signs (The farm, complete with approx 44 acres has, in fact, been sold -- it went for about 1/2 Million Euro -- to a local).

We parked there, beside the farmhouse and walk through the drive/ field road running through the property (after an obligatory stop to examine the farm and out-buildings while fantasizing about purchasing the place for ourselves). After an easy walk of about a 1/4 mile, the Falls loomed before us. If you've viewed the pictures link at the beging of this report, I don't have to describe the view and words really can't do it justice. The four of us remained there for a while, lounging on the grass, drinking in the sights and just enjoying the peace and solitude. during the entire time, including the return walk to the car and most of the drive back down off the mountain, we never saw another soul.


We saw our first other human on the drive back out to the road, coming (of course!)in the opposite direction. I squeezed the Renault over into the brush and inched by, listening the whole while as the twigs and sticks tapped and scraped their way down the passenger side of the car. We drove into the Square at Millstreet to grab a quick lunch from the TakeAway and I surveyed the damage -- two long, full length scratches in the clear coat! Ah, well. Guess I shall see just how good that MasterCard MasterRental REALLY is, I thought ...

We ate our lunch in the van, doing a little people watching while we did. Then we drove up to the Museum for our appointment with Sean Radley. I'm never sure how to greet Sean. While he is certainly memorable to us (and often, a true highlight of our trips), we generally only see him for an hour or so, about once a year. Plus, Sean is possessed of the marvelous, 'absent-minded proffessor'that comes from being as incredibly busy as he usually is. So I always preface my greeting with a reminder that we have met before and that I am bringing more of Jack Doody's children to visit Millstreet.

Sean invariably assures me that he remembers us perfectly well, while simultaneously acting for all the world as if he hasn't a clue as to who we are. Then he escorts us into the little museum and proudly shows us the picture that he took of Jack, back in 2000, displayed along with the dozens of other "honored dignitaries" that have visited here. (Brian Dennehey is among those photos. His grandfather used to live in Millstreet, as well.) Sean launches into his wirlwind tour of the place, his talk interrupted by a handful of phone calls and locals that drop in to see him or to pick something up. A County Council member drops by to have Sean take a digital photo of him, to be emailed to some newspaper or other and Sean never misses a beat. Next thing we know, Sean is snapping pictures of Councilman Duggan as he greets "Millstreet's Honored guests"!

Sean leads us down the street to the new coffeshop, where he insists upon buying us beverages and some of the best fresh-baked goods that I have ever eaten. By now, a couple of delightful hours have passed and we reluctantly part company. We are expected in Mallow shortly, to meet the cousins for dinner. I express some aprehension about making it on time due to the circuitous detour and Sean laughs as he tells me to ignore it and 'just drive through'. he detour doesn't apply to locals, he says. There will be a temporary traffic light, at the begining of the one lane stretch. Just wait for it to turn green before proceding, says he. So we take Sean at his word and follow the N72. Damn, if he wasn't right. We make the trip without incident and arrive in Mallow, only a few minutes later than planned.

We met with Sean and several of the cousins at the Hibernian Hotel in the center of Mallow. It is a beautiful, old building that has obviously had some serious renovation work done fairly recently. We ate in one of the bars and the food was quite good AND reasonable. I managed to snatch up the bill while the cousins were distracted and the total for the ten of us came to less than 100 Euro! I was feeling quite pleased with myself, after that uncharachteristic success. We had a great visit, until nearly 11PM before we said our final goodbyes and made our drive back to the B&B in Millstreet. Saying goodbye is never easy for Sean and his wife. It's a bit easier with their children. I suspect it's a generational thing, not wanting to say farewell to people leaving for America, as no doubt, in their day, often times it was goodbye, forever. The mind tells you that you will definitely return, but your heart seems to echo, "Did all the others before, not make that same pledge?"


Day 11:
In the morning, after another terrific, farm-fresh breakfast, we packed up, settled our bill and left the mountain. As we were manuevering the Renault out of the parking area and discussing our stay, we all agreed that, despite our less than hospitable welcome, all of us would stay at Ballinatona again. The setting is that beautiful.

We reluctantly made a slow, final exit from Millstreet. Heading back, toward Killarney, after one more brief stop at the church in Rathmore, we did some last-minute shopping and dropped by the Tourist Office to have them book our rooms in Bunratty, for our final night in Ireland. Then, we dropped back into the Internet Shop next door to peruse the latest baby pictures.

Through this report I have alluded to all the guilt we felt about being in Ireland during the first days of our grandchildren's lives. It was quite genuine, I assure you. Our Granddaughter was 32 days preterm, weighing only 5lbs 8 oz. Because she developed a severe case of jauntice, the hospital would not release her for almost a week. When she finally was able to go home, she weighed only 5 lbs.

Our grandson was only two weeks early, though he weighed in at only 5 lb 9 oz. He was suffering distress and so his labor had been induced. After his birth, his heart rate would drop dramatically and he suffered from apnia, as well. It was over a week before the hospital would release him, and then, it was only after he was fitted with a heart and breathing monitor and both of his parents had undergone Infant CPR training. Every day we phoned both the kids, checking in and getting updates. For our grandson, that included hearing lists of all the test results returned each day (EKG, Cat Scans, spinal taps, etc., etc.) and the growing list of ailments ruled out -- "Good news! The Doctors said that he doesn't have Menningitis!"

Needless to say, it made the whole trip a lot more difficult than I may have expressed thus far. Since then, both babies have thrived, but it was quite unnerving at the time. I spent most evenings reassuring my wife that everything would work out fine. Then, after she had fallen asleep, I would try to convince myself. Even now, I don't know that it would have been any better going through all of that at home, in the States, but there is DEFINITELY something psychologically unnerving about being away from home. It didn't ruin our trip, because the kids were always pretty upbeat and reassurring when we talked to them each day, but it most assurredly damped our enthusiasm a bit!

We left Killarney on the N21, enroute to Bunratty. We stopped into the Tourist Office in Adare for some last minute shopping and then strolled around the town and the park. From the rear parking lot, we walked back into town and dropped into a charming little restraunt. The name escapes me now, but it was only a block or so from the car park and almost directly across the street from one of Adare's hallmark, thatched roof buildings (housing, naturally enough, upscale gift shops), next door to a pharmacy. It was part of one long, interconnected building, although the structure immediately to the left had just recently been demolished, pending some sort of upscale, new construction.

We had some delectable toasted sandwhiches and soup, but the brown bread they served was probably the very best that I have ever tasted. When we complemented the server, she told us that the baker has won several awards for his brown bread. We asked if we could purchase a whole loaf to take with us and our server (who I believe was actually the owner) said that she would see if there was enough to spare. She returned a few moments later with a full loaf, double wrapped in foil and imformed us that it was a complementry GIFT and was adamant about not letting us pay for the bread. (We smuggled it home on the plane and my father-in-law LOVED it!)

Late afternoon found us at our B&B, about a mile or so up the LOW ROAD from the Castle and Folk Park. We drove in to Kathleen's for dinner, then returned to the B&B early to get our packing settled for our departure.
Since the tank on the Renault was nearly empty, I put about four litres worth of gas in and resolved to take advantage of the 'prepaid' tankfull. We had a fine breakfast then headed off to the Airport. I dropped off my companions and the luggage, then looped back around, to the Rental Car Return. When the man came out tocheck me in, he asked how everything had gone. I told him my tale of woe about the rear tire and he walked around to the passenger side to check out the replacement. I just stood there, behind him, my eyes riveted upon the two, long, full-length scratches. The man looked carefully at the new tire, smiled and marked my contract.
"Everything looks fine," says he. "Shall I give ye a lift to the terminal?"

God, do I LOVE Ireland! It is a land, rich in contradictions, where businesses can be so incredibly, frustratingly PIG HEADED about rediculous things, like Insurance Waivers, tire damage caused by bad roads and yet, write off dents and scrapes, as "normal, and customary' wear and tear!

So all ended well, in Ireland and our flights were uneventful until we reached Orlando. There, a tornado had raged through only an hour or so before we arrived, dropping out power in the terminal and backing up numerous flights. We had to cirle the airport for about 45 minutes before there was a gate available, and then, it was so crowded and backed up that it took nearly two hours to get on to the road. John and Pam had ridden down to the airport with us, but they graciously rented a car one-way to home, so that we could instead, make a bee-line to see ouir new Grand-daughter.

It was time to pay the Piper...



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