GM and I took a trip to Ireland 20 years ago. We drove around, mostly in the West. We didn’t have a itinerary figured out, just flights in and out. It was a great trip we even managed to get engaged on the Cliffs of Moher. We were in Ireland several economic lives ago so it was apparent things have really changed, especially in County Kerry.
It was our last 10 days of travel before re-entry. We had arranged to meet GM’s mom, sister and her little boy at a house outside of Killarney for the week. As expected the weather sucked. Not vaguely reminiscent of summer, cold and rainy but it was very green and pretty. The rain did discourage us from doing any serious trekking which could have been fun. We did manage to spend a day at the beach (it was not tropical) visited a really pretty manor house that had great gardens, went to a summer fair and walked when the weather permitted. It was a fun time for the kids to hang with their little cousin, Dylan.
We were very blown away by all the building and development. Gone from the scenery are the simple but beautiful little white wash cottages and in their place are the nasty 4000sqft McMansions. I realized at some earlier point in time (the housing bubble has burst here) this meant economic growth and prosperity for Ireland that was a good thing for people there. This success came at a price and a lot of what we saw in County Kerry had lost its charm. We still had a nice time, enjoyed family and being in one place for a whole week.
We left County Kerry and spent the day driving to our last stop on our world tour, Ballinalacken Castle . We drove through the Burren. The Burren is huge pile of limestone that was deposited there during the most recent ice age that turned it from a tropical lake to a forest full of bears….Now its beautiful and stark and a great place for hiking if the weather isnt sucking. We drove through this beautiful countryside on narrow roads that feature stonewalls and hedges. They were not forgiving if you weren’t paying attention. We went to Aillwee Cave. That was OK. It was just a regular cave walk, with stalagmites and stalactites. The big attraction was the bird of prey aviary and we were lucky enough to be there for a demonstration and were able to watch hawks, a falcon and vultures do their thing while a really knowledgeable and entertaining handler told us everything we needed to know. We then drove towards Doolin and our hotel. The drive was gorgeous and the houses that I was feeling so nostalgic for could be found here. This was what we remembered being so smitten with. We continued down nostalgia lane when we checked into the Ballinalacken Hotel. It was a large Manor house with a 13th century castle ruin on the property. Stepping into it was like being in a post war English hotel. Let just say I was feeling a little under dressed and under groomed. Everyone was perfectly nice and welcoming there but I couldn’t help but feel like the O’Connell family wasn’t suited for the Ballinalacken Manor. It turns out everyone was sweet, kid friendly and the food was delish.
Our second day in Clare was great. It was beautiful. The bright clear weather makes an already pretty country absolutely stunning. We started at the Cliffs or Moher. They are also, along with Table Mountain and Ayer’s Rock on the short list for the New 7 wonders of the natural world. They are beautiful and the kids did seem kind of intrigued by the idea that we were engaged there. Although its apparently the #1 tourist attraction in Ireland, it was low key. There had been some improvements in the car park, but other than erosion, things hadn’t changed much in the 20 years since GM and I had visited. We walked up together to the part that is officially part of the park. It then gets to be private property and the path is noticeably more unstable and dramatic. GM and Callum opted out because they are chickens, and GM didn’t want to watch Georgie skipping along the precipice, with absolutely no body awareness of the danger her body would be in should she make a wrong move, and inevitably stop paying attention. We walked on another km or so and the views were awesome. We walked back down, everyone accounted for and met up with Cal and GM as Henry was on strike in the car. We did a lame virtual flying experience, did some souvenir shopping and headed out for some lunch. After lunch we to the beach in Lahinch where we had a nice walk along a really wide beach and promenade. After our bit of exercise and speed races amongst the children with inappropriate handicaps given to the youngest children, we went visiting some ruins that GM sussed out. We saw a ruin that was more stone walls than anything looking like the remnants of a building, but in a beautiful locale and we saw a gorgeous old abbey ruin, you see lots of them, that had been turned into a cemetery to marvelous affect. After this field trip we headed back to the castle for dinner after a tour of the hotel’s ruin. It was a 13th century tower castle with some additions from the 15th and 17th century. The only reason this tower was more or less intact (minus the timber floors and roof) was because the O’Briens made friends with Oliver Cromwell when he scorched and burned his way through Ireland. These were not luxurious accommodations; living with the animals in a windowless, heatless rock pile. No thanks. After a nice dinner (kids ate while we had our last sun-downer of the trip) we packed up and got organized for our last travel lag of the trip.
We woke up early had quick breakfast and headed to the Shannon airport which was an hour away. After checking in our bags we took the rent-a-car that now had a huge crack in the windshield (we will see how good that travel insurance was!) and went to one more activity before getting on the plane for what will now be ‘home”. GM found the Atlantic Adventure Center from a tourist brochure and we had made reservations online. It was a flight simulator/education center and Jane was great. We first we were oriented on a sophisticated computer game, learning the basics of flying. The kids thought this was the best video ever. After learning the basics we moved on to a flight simulator for a 737. It was very cool. Jane help the kids land this behemoth with surprisingly Georgie and Cal having the smoothest landings. It was a fun way to end the vacation.
The plane ride was uneventful. It was a day flight, which I don’t love, cant sleep. So I watched a 6 hour mini-series, Mildred Pierce. HBO did a really great remake of the move Joan Crawford won an academy award for. It’s a total melodrama with good acting and outstanding production values. There was 5 minutes left, I had been watching Kate Winslet make a lot of stupid decisions (especially regarding men) for 5 hours and 55 minute. And then I heard the steward announce, “as we making our final approach to JFK International Airport, we will be shutting down the in flight entertainment…”. I never found out if Mildred reconciled with her opera-singing daughter, Veda, who was recovering from a throat injury she sustained from her mother (Mildred) who tried to choke her to death when Mildred caught her daughter in bed with her husband Monty. Anyone know what happened?