Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ireland Adventures, Part 3

So, we continue in the beautiful town of Killarney.  Killarney, based on its location at the start of the famous Ring of Kerry, is a tourist town.  From the streets lined with souvenir shops, the multitude of Irish bars playing traditional Irish music (which I love), the menu boards advertising early bird specials, to the horse and buggies throughout the town, Killarney screams touristy.  But, I don’t always think that is a bad thing and after our evening in Cork it was much welcomed.

view down the high street

We spent our first afternoon exploring the town and settling into our apartment, which I LOVED.  We stayed at the Killarney Self-Catering Apartments, Rookery Mews.  It was about a 2 minutes drive from the center of town and it was perfect for families.  We had a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment which came equipped with everything you will need for your stay.  It even had a fenced in playground on the grounds along with a basketball hoop and pails filled with balls for the kids to play with.  The playground was suitable for all ages with a swing set for the bigger kids and Little Tykes house and swing for the youngins.  Unfortunately, after the heavy rains from the morning, Ava was not able to enjoy the underwater playground.

Killarney (4)
there were 4 units in each building, 2 up and 2 down

Killarney (6)
future basketball player?

loving time with Grandma
Grandma and Grandpa went out for an early dinner and came back to watch Ava so Dan, Brian and I could go out too.  We went downtown to Bricin Boxty House. I really enjoyed this restaurant for the great food and fantastic service.  We arrived and were greeted at the door by the owner who asked if we had a reservation.  When we told him we didn’t, he was immediately apologetic that we would have to wait 15 minutes for a table.  The way he acted you would have thought he was telling us that we would never get a table. He then entertained us with stories about the area. Aside from the hospitality, the food was fantastic.  We shared crab claws and deep fried cambaberet.  Then, I had their famous Boxty.  The Boxty is an Irish potato pancake that is folded and filled like a crepe.  Mine was stuffed with a curried Irish lamb stew.  I am still thinking about that meal.  If you are ever in Killarney, you MUST eat here.

The next morning we started our day with the Ring Of Kerry.  Everything I read said that this gets loaded with tour buses and can be quite crazy.  I learned that the buses begin at around 9:30 and travel in an anti-clockwise (as they say in Ireland) direction.  So, we decided to get an early start and stay ahead of the tour buses.  This worked out perfectly as we saw only one bus the entire trip.  The entire ring is 179 KM (or 111 miles to us Americans), but the distance flew by as you admire the amazing scenery.  Plus there are several quaint towns and villages to stop and explore along the way.  These pictures don’t even serve justice to the beauty of this area.

Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry (2) 
Ring of Kerry (6) 
Ring of Kerry (10) 
Ring of Kerry (20)
Luckily Ava took a nice nap in the car, so there was no need to stop.  After lunch back in Killarney, we headed back out to the Killarney National Park.  You can spend several days just exploring this park.  The Ring begins and ends at the National Park.  So, this first part, The Lady’s View, we saw at the end of the Ring of Kerry drive.  The views were amazing and there were a few families there enjoying a picnic.

Ladies View Killarney National Park
Ladies View Killarney National Park  (10)
Ladies View Killarney National Park  (9)
Ladies View Killarney National Park  (7)
We had plans to visit the Muckross House in the park, but we would have to wait too long for the next tour.  So, instead we decided to take the hike to the Torc Waterfall.  We got stuck in a little rain along the way, but it was well worth the hike.

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (3)
The Muckross House- There are also traditional farms on the grounds, which would have been fun for Ava to see, but we never made it.

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (2)
Ava is all ready for her hike.  Dan was very excited the uncle Brian volunteered to take the backpack this time.

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (4)
Yes, that is the rain we got stuck in.  Of course it came while we were out in the clearing.

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (17) 

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (16)
I loved all the moss

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (23) 
Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (24) 

Kilarney National Park and Torc Waterfall (27)

After a low-key evening of frozen pizza and card playing we headed to Dublin in the morning.  I will write all about Dublin in the the last part of our adventure.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ireland:part 2

Dan and I were hoping to start our morning with a sightseeing walk of Kilkenny, but waking to the sound of pouring rain put a bit of a damper on those plans.  After eating a full Irish breakfast (we even tried the black and white pudding) we headed for our next destination, The Jameson Experience at the Old Midleton Distillery.

I am not a huge whiskey drinker and due to my current state, I did not think I would truly appreciate this tour.  I was definitely wrong.  It was so interesting to see how Jameson was made, right there from the late 1700's through to the 1970's.  Our tour guide was very enthusiastic about whiskey and made this non-whiskey drinker want to sit down with a glass.  It poured during our tour and parts of it were outside.  Thankfully, the folks at Jameson supplied us with ponchos that came in handy throughout our trip.  At the end of the tour everyone gets a good-sized sample.  You have a choice of straight Jameson or a Jameson and ginger with lime.  I tried a few sips of the latter and it was delicous; I may have found my new drink after this baby comes.  The tour guide also asks for volunteers to do a comparison tasting.  Brian was lucky enough to be one of the official tasters.

We are all so proud
 After eating a scrumptious lunch at distillery restaurant, we headed about 15 minutes away to Cork for our 2nd night.  I must say that I was not overly impressed with the city of Cork.  I found it to be slightly seedy and being we were there during the week a lot of the stores and sights were closing down as we set out to explore.  The only benefit I found to staying in Cork is its location to the Old Midleton Distillery and to the Blarney Castle. We did find a decent apartment that was right on the river.

View from apartment living room

Ava really liked the coffee table- please note the Santa Ana Star water bottle that my mother has been reusing since we lived in New Mexico; I am sure that is safe.

The next morning we woke to more rain, but we braved the storm and headed for the Blarney Castle.  By the way, the next group of pictures are courtesy of my brother, Brian. I didn't want to take out my camera in the rain.
Yea, we look good.  Thank you Jameson Whiskey for the free poncho, it came in handy.
I read so many mixed reviews about the castle, mainly complaints that it is simply a huge tourist trap. Sure it was touristy, but it was also beautiful and well worth the visit.

Blarney Estate, built in 1704.  Unfortunatly you can only view the house with a tour.  We didn't feel like paying more for the tour.

View from the top of the castle.  The Blarney Stone is located at the top of the castle.

So...these are the stairs to get up to the top.  They were extra scary when wet.

I had to put in this beautiful picture.

After hearing stories about people peeing on the stone and thinking of all the germs I swore I would not kiss the stone.  Well, you can see how well that worked it.  It was raining, so it had to be clean...right?

After drying off we headed to Killarney were we would spend the next two nights.  I already bored you to tears with this post, so to be continued...I will leave you with a picture of this cute little girl I saw trying on hats.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ireland Part 1 and Pregnancy Update

After Dan and I planned our week-long trip to Ireland my parents called us to see if they, along with Brian, could join us on our adventures.  Of course we were thrilled for the chance to see everyone and for Ava to spend some time with her family. 

We arrived in Ireland on July 30th and after we rounded everyone up at the airport (which was an adventure in itself), picked up our car rentals (car hires as they call them in Ireland) we headed for our first stop, Powerscourt Estate. 

Our plan was to stop here, check out the gardens, have some lunch and then head to our first hotel in Kilkenny.  There has been a castle on the grounds here since the 13th century. The original castle no longer stands, but has been replaced by the current house in 1730.  Part of the house was destroyed in the 1970s and it has never been restored to its original glory.  Based on recommendations, we chose to skip the house tour, but we were blown away by the beautiful gardens and the views of the Wicklow Mountains in the distance.  There is also a Ritz-Carlton on the grounds and it is breathtaking.  I wish we had booked a night here, it would have been a great place to spend the first night.


If you ever visit here, I highly recommend grabbing lunch from the cafe.  They had a good selection and when the weather is nice, the patio is a beautiful setting for lunch.


After lunch, we headed back into the car and made the 1 1/2 hour drive to Kilkenny. We checked into our hotel, The Kilkenny Ormonde, and then headed out to explore the town.  Our first stop was the Kilkenny Castle.  This amazing castle was built in the early 1200s for the Earl of Pembroke.  It later became the home of the powerful Butler family in 1391 and stayed with the family until 1967.  It was "sold" to the city of Kilkenny for 50 pounds.  The castle has been restored and is open to self-guided tours.  Unfortunately, I couldn't take any pictures inside the castle. 

Behind the house was a huge lawn where Ava loved running around

We found a great playground on the castle grounds that were a gift to the town.

My family was super jet-lagged, so we had an early dinner and then retreated to our rooms for the night. In my next post, I will write about our stay in Cork and visits to the Old Middleton Distillery and Blarney Castle and our stay in Killarney. I will write a third post on our stay in Dublin. Don't hold your breath though, it only took me three weeks to sit down and write this post.

Pregnancy Update
I haven't written much on Facebook or on this blog about my pregnancy.  I am currently 19 weeks and with the exception of some aches and pains I am feeling pretty good.  Within this past week my pants have been getting a little uncomfortable, so I started using a belly band or resorting to my one pair of maternity pants.  Maternity clothes shopping is a little limited here, so I had to order a bunch of stuff online. 

Here at SHAPE we do not have a hospital on the base, only a clinic.  The clinic does not staff an OB/Gyn, so I have to go "on the economy" for my visits.  I was not happy with my first doctor and the care I was receiving, so I just switched to a hospital which came highly recommended.   Unlike the US, you do not visit your doctor at a practice, instead, the doctors work for a particular hospital, which is where you go for your visits.  My midwife and doctor speak English, but my midwife has been sick.  So, my first visit was with a midwife who didn't speak English.  It worked out better than you would expect.  She used Google Translate to ask me the questions I didn't understand and I was able to speak enough French to answer all of her questions (that French class came in handy).  She was actually quite impressed with my French.  So far, I have had un ultrasound with every visit.  The doctors here all seem to have ultrasound machines in the room.  Being this is my first pregnancy, I didn't know this is not what to expect in the US.  The baby looks great and was very active, but he/she had its legs crossed the whole time:(  I have my morphological scan on the 9th, so hopefully then I will find out if it is a boy or a girl. 

Here is a belly shot.  I think I am finally starting to look a little pregnant.