All quiet on the Irish front.

Not much to report today. We travelled from Galway to Fossa via Dunratty Castle, Adare, and Killarney. The castle and attached folk park was nice. The tour guide was enthusiastic, funny, and knowledgable. Having an enthusiastic guide really makes things more fun.

Both Adare and Killarney were cute towns but mostly just shop after shop of the same stuff. It’s hard to get excited about an Irish wool scarf when you’ve seen the same one in a dozen shops in multiple towns. Yes, they say “made in Ireland” but I have to wonder, by whom? Or by what?
We’re spending tonight and tomorrow at a lovely country inn just off a lake. After two nights of city noise, tonight we’re more likely to hear moos. They served us a beautiful dinner, though I was a little disappointed by the beer list. Heineken on tap, Coors and Budweiser in bottles. I had wine.
Tomorrow we tour the Ring of Kerry, Muck Ross gardens, and then have a “traditional Irish evening.” I’m a little skeptical about how traditional it’s really likely to be, but I guess if I think of it as an “Ireland Theme Park,” as it was described by someone at the bar last night, then it should be okay. 
But if THEY don’t at least have Guinness, I will be starting a riot.
P.S. I have no way to transfer my many photos off cameras onto my new iPad mini so sorry these are so text heavy. Trying to take a few photos with my phone and uplad those to break the monotony.

Ireland days one and two

I posted some photos last night before passing out, now I`ll try to fill in some story while I`m a bit more awake. Hotel wifi isn`t connecting right now so no idea when this will post but I`m typing it at 9:30pm on Monday from our hotel in Galway

The flight from JFK to Shannon was only about six hours and between takeoff, landing, and meals I only got about three hours of sleep. That made for a very long day as it was straight onto the tour bus and off to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a bit of a hike uphill to get to the top of the cliffs but what a view! It really was amazing.

From there we drove through the Burren, a huge area of land carved by glaciers and made up mostly of rock. We drove through that area on our way to Galway. Despite being told to prepare for chill weather maxing out around 65F, we hit a heat wave with 75 or so. Oh, and the AC on the bus wasn`t working. The warmth of the bus plus the lack of sleep made the whole bus a bit drowsy and crabby so arriving at the hotel, I think we all ran to the showers.

After a bit of time to rest and clean up, our tour leader, Willi, took some of us on a walk through the main section of Galway, to get a better idea of the area. Then it was a lovely dinner in the hotel before crashing quite early and quite hard.

Today we were up for a good Irish breakfast and the on our way through the Connemara region to Kylemore Abbey. The Connemara region was starkly beautiful. Rocky wet soil has made it difficult for farming or settling and so we could drive many miles between houses. Even the flocks of sheep were rare. I found it kind of haunting and wanted to get out and hike through the deserted land and hills. As someone with little to no interest in athletic activity, it was an odd place to get the urge to go hiking.

Kylemore Abbey was a lovely “modern” castle, built about 150 years ago by Mitchell Henry as a “love letter” to his wife. It was a nice estate with a small church. There were also some big Victorian gardens, but time was running short so we skipped those. We drove back through more of Connemara Nation Park and passed by an old bridge featured in the classic John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man.

Upon returning to Galway, we did a bit of shopping and then had fish and chips at McDonaghs, apparently a bit of a local institution. After popping in to several pubs on the high street of Galway, only to be disappointed by the beer selection, we walked about half an hour to the Salthill area on the water so that I could finally get my hands on some good beer. It was worth the walk, especially given the long chat with one of the employees of the bar/brewery. I think I`ll let the beer info be a second post.

Tomorrow we pack up here and head to Killarney via Bunratty Castle and Adare. I`ll be back whenever I get WiFi!

First beers in Ireland!!

Okay, so long story sort of short…

Firstly, I wasn’t feeling great last night (Sunday) which isn`t surprising given the lack of sleep and the heat on the bus. A few people got a pint before dinner but I needed rest. Then we had lunch at the Kylemore Abbey and the only beer option was Amstel Blue if I recall correctly. There was some beer on the bus, but cans of Budweiser and Heineken.

Surely, when we got to Galway and found a pub, I would finally find some good Irish beer. Ideally good Irish beer OTHER than Guinness and Murphys.

First pub? Nope. The only Irish Beer I hadn`t heard of was Bearmish Irish Stout, and they were out. But the bartender mentioned a pub up the road that brewed there own. So we wandered up and found a sign for their beer, brewed by Galway Hooker (a large brewery, not in Galway). Hey, at least it was unique so I`ll give it a shot. It`s a vanilla porter, I like that. Or I probably would like that if they had any left. Boo, Beer strike two.

Finally Mom and I decide to walk to what was our original plan all along…Oslo. Yes, a bar named Oslo in Galway. But the bar is attached to Galway Bay Brewing. Apparently we missed the speech an employee gave to a group of tourists but he ended up sitting with us and having about a 45 conversation about the craft beer scene in Ireland and America. I got a few tips for breweries to look for in Dublin and where to buy bottles to bring home. 

I started with the Galway Bay Irish Red Ale, it was really tasty, smooth, and balanced. Then I was going to try their stout but the brewery employee chatting with us actually recommended the oatmeal stout from Trouble Brewing. It was a good suggestion. So good that I finished my half pint before I even realized it. Malty, smooth, with just a hint of bitterness on the finish. 

It took almost 36 hours on the ground in Ireland for me to get my first beers, but it was worth the wait to get something good and local. Now, it`s time for another night of sleep so I am ready for another full day. 

It never hurts to ask!

So there are a lot of beers I'm anxious to try while I'm abroad, but as I've looked through various brewery websites, The Kernel was the first one on which I noticed a sour.
 
I'm pretty new to sours, and some are still WAY too much for me. But I'm increasingly fascinated by the style. So much so that I was REALLY excited to attend the local sour beer event “Where the Wild Beers Are.” Sadly, it got scheduled while I'm out of town. Like all the other beer fests. Seriously – I'm gone for three Saturdays and there is a beer event ALL THREE SATURDAYS! Surly Fest, Autumn Brew Review, and WTWBA. Boo. I shall be forced to drown my sorrows across the pond.
 
Anyway, back to The Kernel. I got all excited about their London Sour, clicked to check their hours, and the brewery is open 9a-3p on Saturdays. Only problem? I'm flying from Dublin to London, landing at Heathrow at 2:30. DAMN YOU SATURDAYS!
 
Obviously, I'm not going to make it in time. But I figure what the hell, I'll email the brewery and see if the beer is available anywhere else. I'm determined to get my hands on this stuff. If nothing else, I'd love a bottle of it to bring home and be my “admission beer” to next year's WTWBA. Unless of course it's scheduled on a day I'm having surgery or something, which seems likely.
 
Not only did they point me in the direction of some other sours to try in London, and bars with good selections, they actually offered to let me swing by the brewery on a weekday. YAY! Obviously it will be during working hours so I can't expect them to entertain me, but I'm still grateful for the chance to pick up a bottle or two. They also offered to open a couple of their bottles if I bring some from my neck of the woods. So yes, that will be happening!
 
This is just more evidence of the awesomeness of beer people!!

Ireland Itinerary and Map (Some guessing!)

General Hotel info:
  • Galway – Hotel in Eyre Square
  • Killarney – Fossa
  • Dublin – Ballsbridge
  • London – Blackfriars
 
Day 1)  Saturday, Sept. 21:  TRANSATLANTIC  FLIGHT

Overnight flight from Minneapolis to Shannon Airport on the Westside of Ireland. Dinner and light breakfast are served on the plane.

 

Day 2)  Sunday, Sept. 22:  CLIFFS  OF  MOHER  &  BURREN  &  GALWAY

After arriving in the morning at Shannon Airport we’re greeted by our Irish bus driver and guide Willi. We load our luggage and drive through the scenic County Clare. The highlight of the journey will be the “Cliffs of Moher”. These cliffs provide a dramatic panorama plunging over 600 feet to the sea and extending five miles. Next comes – quite as a contrast – the “Burren” – a vast area comprised of limestone eroded into moonscape patterns. Later this afternoon we arrive at Galway where we stay for two nights. After checking into the hotel enjoy a stroll through the historic city center of Galway with its St. Nicholas Church, Lynch Castle, Salmon Weir Bridge, Spanish Arch, Kirwan’s Lane and Eyre Square. Enjoy tonight’s welcome dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.  B, D

 

Day 3)  Monday, Sept. 23:  GALWAY  &  CONNEMARA  &  KYLEMORE  ABBEY

After a good Irish buffet breakfast we are off’ for the Connemara Region, which is known for its spectacular mountain and coastal scenery along with its gleaming rivers and lakes. We drive along the Galway Bay through charming villages and visit the impressive Kylemore Abbey, home of the Benedictine Community of Nuns since World War I. We’ll enjoy a stroll through the colorful Victorian Walled Garden, the Abbey’s ornate reception rooms and the beautiful Neo-Gothic Church – a “Cathedral in Miniature”. There will be also time for a light lunch before we return to Galway in the early afternoon. Enjoy the balance of the day in Galway and tonight’s dinner on your own in one of the many restaurants and Pubs.  B

 

Day 4)  Tuesday, Sept. 24:  BUNRATTY  CASTLE  &  ADARE  &  KILLARNEY

This morning we leave Galway and travel south for the beautiful County Kerry. Along the way we stop for a visit of the famous Bunnratty Castle & Folk Park, an open air museum proving an example of life in the nineteenth century Ireland. Afterwards we continue to the charming village of Adare with its lovely restored Cottages. Enjoy a walk through the village and a break for lunch before we continue to the Killarney area, the most visited part of Ireland. We see the town of Killarney, considered as the gateway to the “Ring of Kerry”, and also known for its large number of Pubs. We stay for two nights at the family-run “Loch Lein Country House”, a true haven of Irish hospitality with a great view over Killarney’s famous Lower Lake & National Park. Enjoy tonight’s dinner at our Country House.  B, D

  

Day 5)  Wednesday, Sept. 25:  RING  OF  KERRY  &  IRISH  EVENING

After a traditional Irish breakfast we enjoy a drive along the famous “Ring of Kerry”, a 100 mile long panoramic road and a wonderland of natural beauty with views of rolling hills, high mountains, island-jewelled lakes, green glens and rocky cliffs. Before returning to our Country House in the late afternoon another highlight is waiting for you, Muckross House & Gardens, dating back to 1843. Tonight enjoy a special “Irish Evening” at a local Pub, a dinner with traditional music and folk dancing.  B, D

 

Day 6)  Thursday, Sept. 26:  BLARNEY  &  ROCK  OF  CASHEL  &  DUBLIN

This morning we leave the Killarney National Park area and travel to County Cork. The brave ones may visit – on optional basis – the Blarney Castle & Stone. Legend promises the “Gift of Gab” to those who kiss the Blarney Stone. Nearby shops offer some of the largest collections of Waterford Crystals and Belleek China and typical Irish Souvenirs. At the town of Midleton we visit the “Jameson Whiskey Distillery”. A guided tour through the distillery gives us an insight about the production of Whiskey and its different tastes. There will also be time to shop and time for a light lunch at the distillery. Along the way to Dublin we stop at the “Rock of Cashel”, one of the most spectacular attractions of Ireland. The Rock was already fortified by the Kings of Munster in the fourth century. The Golden Age of Cashel was in the high middle-ages when the Cathedral & Cormac Chapel was built in Romanesque style. Later this afternoon we arrive in Dublin, the capitol of Ireland. We check into our hotel for a pleasant two nights’ stay and enjoy dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.  B, D

 

Day 7)  Friday, Sept. 27:  DUBLIN

This morning we enjoy a city tour of Dublin. We see the most important sites of this city: Trinity College with its “Long Room” & the “Book of Kells”, St. Stephen’s Green, City Hall, Grafton Street, O’ Connell & Ha’penny Bridge, Temple Bar District, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, City Hall and the Dublin Castle. Enjoy some free time for shopping and browsing. In the afternoon we can visit on optional basis the famous Guinness Brewery, founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759. Tonight, many of the restaurants and Pubs in Dublin’s pulsating Temple Bar are waiting for you.  B

 

Day 8)  Saturday, Sept. 28:  DUBLIN  &  FLIGHT  TO  LONDON  &  RIVER  CRUISE

After a relaxing buffet breakfast we drive to the international airport of Dublin and check-in for our flight to London. Upon arrival at London’s airport Heathrow we board our bus and get the first impressions of this exciting city. We check into our hotel for a pleasant 4 nights’ stay. Later on we enjoy a “Cruise on the River Thames” followed by a welcome dinner of London at a local restaurant.  B, D

 

Day 9)  Sunday, Sept. 29:  LONDON  &  BUCKINGHAM  PALACE

We start the day with our daily included buffet breakfast. Then we’re off’ for a visit of the famous “Buckingham Palace”, the residence of the Queen & Royal Family of England. The Palace, built in the eighteenth century consists of 600 rooms. Afterwards we enjoy a tour of London by bus, including all the important sites: Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge. Enjoy the balance of the day for your own activities as well as dinner in a local restaurant.  B

 

Day 10)  Monday, Sept. 30:  A FULL DAY  IN  LONDON

 

Day 11)  Tuesday, Oct. 1:  LONDON  &  FAREWELL  DINNER

Tonight, we enjoy our special farewell dinner at a local restaurant.  B, D
 
(The rest of the group flies home on Wednesday, I'm spending the day in London and then heading to Cardiff to visit friends.)