Three generations in Ireland
Turning 60 is a big deal. Because my mother had a 60th birthday and has always wanted to see a castle, and because my daughter is Irish, we settled on a trip for the three of us to Ireland. After researching for a year, we decided on a guided tour for our first venture.
We spent the first three days in Dublin and, in retrospect, it felt the most like home. We walked everywhere, found the nooks and crannies, ate great Lebanese food, strolled through historic St. Steven's Green and found Grafton Street. The shopping there was one of the highlights for me.
The colorful doors of the Georgian Quarter in Dublin were a great treat. We heard two stories describing why they were all different colors. One, that the Irish love their drink and needed a way to discern which house to enter after a night at the pub. Second, after the death of King George, they were ordered by the English to paint their doors black as a respectful sign of mourning. The Irish were an obstinate people and responded by painting all their doors a different color.
Our favorite area is known as medieval Dublin, where much of it was built over 1,000 years ago. Christ Church Cathedral was our first stop. They have a crypt and a café! We happened upon the tour of the bell tower and found ourselves chiming 1 ½-ton bells with the enthusiastic instruction of a professional bell ringer. Let us be clear: Chiming is different than ringing bells. Ringing is bringing the bell around a full 360 degrees. Chiming is swinging back and forth a bit. This is important to note because all the tourists ringing/chiming the huge bells in an unpracticed manner has caused the neighborhood much distress.
Next, we joined our guided tour. It was a fast trip past Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny, Cork and into the county of Kerry. Blarney Castle is a tourist stop for a good reason. The grounds are wonderful and every bit as fascinating as the old castle. It hosts Blarney House, a poison garden, the woolen mills, a druid circle and prehistoric dolmen. Yes, we kissed the Blarney Stone and, according to legend, we now have the gift of eloquence.
We spent two nights in Killarney and drove the famous Ring of Kerry. We stayed a night at Bunratty Castle Hotel and ate a medieval dinner with our fingers. Looking out our hotel room window, we spied the 12th-century ruins of Bunratty Church and Cemetery.
We continued driving up the west coast of Ireland to the stunning Cliffs of Moher. We explored the historic cliffs, looked over the edge of the 700-foot drop and appreciated the magnificent geology of the ancient island.
Unless you only eat fish, the food in Ireland was not impressive. Breakfast includes beans and mushrooms with two kinds of blood sausage they call pudding. Katie's Irish heritage was evident in her choice for the final meal in Ireland: a bowl of beans with toast.