Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tintern Abbey, the Dunbrody and the Hook Lighthouse

Our full day near New Ross definitely was full.

First stop was the Dunbrody emigrant ship moored in the River Suir at New Ross itself. This was literally a few minutes from our accommodation. Out the quaint little road, left at the roundabout and down the hill into the main street of town.

The ship is a recently built reproduction of a ship that made several trips to North America taking escapees from the famine of the 1840's. The original was built in Quebec and the reproduction here in Ireland. The tour was quite interesting and the boat itself (a barq) very impressive. I loved the dummy gun ports painted on the sides. Down below decks were reproductions of the living quarters for the passengers, most of whom paid "steerage" fares.

Our trip was virtually a private one as we arrived early. The tour buses were just starting to arrive when we left. I would recommend this one if you are in the area as it is very well done and provides a lot of insight and background to the Irish heritage in the "new world". Even the (JFK) Kennedy is from this region. We passed their estate but did not stop in.

Next stop was Tintern Abbey. This is a partially restored Cistercian Abbey built around 1200 AD. We were able to wander the grounds here with almost nobody else around either. There was a tour available but after a while one big old stone churchy building looks like another. It is impressive though so if you are into big old stone churchy buildings, stop in!

After out brief stop here were headed out the Hook Peninsula to check out the views and the 800 year old but still functioning lighthouse. I think they've changed the bulbs a few times. 

The scenery out here was quite nice. The land in the east of Ireland is somewhat flatter than the west and the views less dramatic but still very picturesque. There are many old castles, estates and abbeys and we didn't have the time this trip to check them all out (we probably never could) but it was pleasant just driving past them. Heck even the barns and fences are terribly picturesque. 

We took a tour of the lighthouse while we were here. It was another one that was well done with good anecdotes from the guide and interesting use of films that had actors playing period roles describing life in the era of the light.   

So, all of this was before lunch but we even found one more site AT lunch. This was the Templar's Church, situated across the road from the Templar's Inn where I indulged in my first bowl of seafood chowder. 

A car ferry at Ballyhack took us across the Suir River to Waterford. By this point we had had a good enough amount of sightseeing for the day and we headed on home to New Ross and down our quaint lane to our home for 2 days. Tonight was a big black dog and full moon night.

Where The Roads Have No Name

Today dawned twice for us. The first was at about 4:30 this morning when we were startled awake by the proverbial infernal racket of a fire alarm. It was so loud and shrill, and not a sound we were familiar with, that it took us a minute to pinpoint the source. I thought at first for example it might be a clock hidden in a drawer or something, but it turned out to be the ceiling mounted alarm in our kitchen.
Once we found the source we all threw our clothes on and exited the apartment into the back courtyard and from there out to the  street out front. If the building had been burning we would have actually had to re-enter it to get out the front door. From the back where we were there might have been an exit but we don't see a way to get out there.

Around a dozen other people, probably all tourists too, appeared from other suites and we all ended up congregating on the sidewalk. Some of them took quite a bit longer than us to get out. We grabbed our passports and wallets only (well my camera bag, but that had the passports in it). Nobody knew the source and the fire department wasn't on the way that I could tell even though there was a loud alarm and flashing light outside too. I ended up being the one to dial 999 (equivalent of 911) and called in the fire brigade. A few minutes later 2 trucks and a car showed up.

It turned out to be nothing. Our AirBnb host confirmed later that someone in the building was making some later night munchies and burned them, setting off the smoke detector. It was awfully nice of him (the perpetrator that is) to not even say anything to any of us that the risk was actually gone and there was no real fire. He took several minutes to even appear and it was only to try to overide the alarm panel, unsuccessfully.

Anyway, the brave young lads in yellow soon declared the place safe and we went back to bed. We managed to get another hour or 2 at least.

Our hero Darmin showed up at 9 and we managed to get all of our luggage in the small truck space of his car and he drove us out to the airport Europcar rental counter. The lady there suggested we upgrade the size of the car and managed to get us a midsized Renault SUV. She also gave us a GPS unit and we paid extra for all the insurance coverage we could. Not having driven on the wrong side of the road before, we figured this was a good idea. Doug and I are the drivers. We soon found that the car had built-in GPS but my phone became the one we relied on today mostly as I had the addresses already in it and know how to use it.

Driving south from the Dublin airport involved the M50 ring road and we stayed on it until a while after the city and then headed for the coast. Scenic and slow was more our style. It turned out that, so far at least, I had no problems with the left side driving. We had a couple of minor but inconsequential slip-ups  and one wrong turn that took us on a roundabout route back towards Dublin before we could get back heading south again.

A few spots gave us some wide vistas of the ocean which was very calm compared to the day before in the north. I strolled on the beach a bit near Wicklow. Once off the highway the roads were narrow and twisty but in good condition.

For lunch we decided to head for Arklow. I chatted with a local on the beach who suggested a pub for lunch but when we got to town it wasn't where we thought it should be but a parking meter guy sent us to a nice hotel bar where we had a great lunch. Being the driver I had a coffee not a beer, and I found the difference between a coffee with cream and a white coffee. The cream was lovely, but it would have been more at home on top of a hot chocolate or a cake.

We walked the streets of the quaint town a bit and then headed out with our GPS (my phone) leading us to New Ross. It's a good thing I had it as the place has no obvious signage and even the photos we had of it would not help us identify the driveway from the street. The road to it was the narrowest yet and almost enchanted forest like in its darkness of stone walls and overhanging trees.

And the place itself is terrific. All rebuilt from the ground up, it is an old country estate and we are in the also completely rebuilt, comfortable and modern, old barn. Only issue here is the Wifi somehow won't get picked up by my laptop, even though the phone finds it.

Tesco is just down the road too; the big road that is, not the one we are on.

And Tintern Abbey is close by and on the agenda for tomorrow.             

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Trip To The Giant's Causeway

Today was a long day. Up at 5, picked up at 6 by Darwin (our faithful taxi driver) and on the bus from the cold waiting zone at the Dublin Gallery at 6:45. We didn't arrive home until 8.

We went with FinnMcCoolsTours which we booked online just a day before. Off season it was a pretty good rate too. Eugene the guide and Peter the driver did a very good job today.

Our first stop after entering Northern Ireland and passing through Belfast (not counting the highway rest stop was The Dark Hedges. This is just one of the many Game Of Thrones filming sites in Ireland and many of the people on our bus were there to see these sites. We have not watched the show really so they don't have much interest for us specifically, though they are still strikingly beautiful locations.

It is nearly impossible to get those great photos with all the other tourists about but I tried.

We passed by the Bushmill's Distillery but they apparently don't give out free samples anymore so are off the list of stops. Next stop was Dunluce Castle which apparently is famous for having it's kitchen fall of the cliff into the Atlantic one day.

The Giants Causeway and the coastal route followed...but I'm too tired. I'll get to that later.

Monday, October 02, 2017

The Perfect Pour

One way to get ahead of the crowds is to get up and go pretty early and, even better, be situated only 10 minutes walk from the main attraction. The Guinness Storehouse is almost visible from the street corner near us. It is actually 7 stories high and the Guinness "Campus"covers about 65 acres so it does make quite the landmark.

We were on one of the first tours of the day around 10 AM. Obviously much has been written of the history of Guinness but we did learn a bit today, including about the 9000 year lease for 45 pounds per year. Some investment.

The tour is nearly all self serve and some people have told us it's not worth it, but it wasn't bad. The old equipment, explanatory videos, coopering (barrel making) videos, models and advertising history were are interesting and well executed. And then we go to earn our pouring certificates.

We ended up on the 4th floor and learned how to pour the perfect pint and get our certificate, then we headed up to the 7th floor to drink in the full wraparound windows of the Gravity Bar. We enjoyed the view and chatted with some 'Muricans while trying not to argue over the DOTUS (Dotard of the US). They left after a bit and we enjoyed talking with some Aussies after that. 

After a trip through the gift shop and a few souvenirs we headed over to Trinity College. The Book Of Kells was there but no pictures were allowed We also visited the library which is quite remarkable. 

Not too much more on the agenda for today except a bit of wandering and sweater shopping, though no buying other than groceries. Tomorrow we are getting up early for our trip to Northern Ireland. 

Some more pics from the day: