Day 15 Mount Juliet morning and Newbridge Silverware Factory

by Jenn

This morning was a relaxing one at Mount Juliet as we got to sleep in and when up we packed for our trip home.  After walking around the wooded areas of the grounds we finished our time at the lovely estate with lunch at the clubhouse out on the sunny patio enjoying every last bit of the fantastic weather we have had on this vacation. We then left for our stop at the Newbridge Silverware Factory to see the original dress that Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz. It was a small dress for a young Judy.  The showcase also had many other dresses form silver screen starlets of the golden age of movies. Dresses from Gone with the Wind, Sparticus and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was an interesting collection from Hollywood in the suburbs of Dublin.

This evening we went to dinner at Masterson’s Steakhouse and while the food was delicious the service was subpar. It took over 45 minutes for us to get our food. I don’t know if it was the servers fault or if it was that there were too many large parties in the restaurant as well, but the least  she could have done was to inform us and ask if we would like more water or any bread at all.  We didn’t hear from her for 45 minutes after ordering and then as Jenn finished her last bite, the waitress practically pulled the plate out from under her and seemingly shooed us out.  After paying, the manager asked if he could make it up to us by offering an after dinner drink on the house. His efforts went a long way in making the night better, though an apology from her would have been nice.  Again, great food… wait staff service not so great.  We had our drinks out on the terrace and enjoyed the setting sun.

For now we are relaxing watching some tv. Tomorrow is the flight home and while I am sad to leave I am excited to go home.

Here are photos from Newbridge Silverware’s Museum of Style Icons:

Day 14 Waterford and Mount Juliet

by Jenn

This morning we got an early start and headed to the Waterford Crystal factory in… you guessed it, Waterford. The tour was great and showed us all the stages from the blowing the crystal into the mould to the design, cutting and polishing.  It was a great tour and at the end of it we were dropped off into the main gallery and store.  Everything there was so pretty and sparkling. We got a bowl and matching candle holders shipped home. They are very pretty and were some of the style being created on our tour.  Perhaps when they ship it to us we will get one of the ones we saw today. One can hope.

We then got on the road at once to spend as much time here at Mount Juliet as possible. We made it here at 1pm, had a great lunch and then went horseback riding.  The horses were kind old gentlemen and easy to control for the both of us.  Their names are Dave and Prince. We took them for a guided walk around the grounds with one of the instructors.  I had a lot of fun on the ride and I know that Jenn did too. This was followed by a great dinner during sunset from 730 to 915 tonight.

Now for the small complication in our plans, there is a wedding going on today on the grounds. The DJ was going to be in the restaurant directly beneath our presidential suite.  The front desk called to let us know and offered us another suite in the manor at a discounted rate. Since the party is scheduled to go until 130 am we opted for the different room at a reduced rate.  At least we got to be in our presidential room for a bit. And we can still hear the music from one floor up and on the opposite end of the hall, so it is for the best that we moved.  The hotel even offered to pick up our bar tab for dinner.  I am pleased with the extra effort and consideration paid to us. Take a look at some photos from today:

Day 13 – Blarney Castle & Cork

by Jenn

After a delicious meal at the Druid Cottage Jenn and I got on our merry way to the city of Cork in the south of Ireland.  Along the way we stopped at a very well known church in the Gogane Barra park for some photos. This was definitely not something that Rick Steves knows about but well worth the detour.  We followed that up with a stop at a castle on the bay in Castletownshed, obvious huh? Then on to another stone circle like the previous day, but this was bigger with respect to the rocks used to create it.  It was smaller in circumference but the stones could surely be seen as pointing in the directions of the compass.

My most favorite part of the day was our trip to the Blarney Castle, and your guessed it… kissing the blarney stone. It was quite some way up the tower wall and yes it does look and feel that high when you are bent over backwards to kiss it upside-down. After that thrilling experience we walked along the grounds a bit more taking photos and being silly together.  Our innkeeper for the night at Higgins B&B is a wonderful woman named Breeda. She is one of my favorites as host to our evening she took to answering all our questions and gave us a great map of the city restaurants and recommendation for dinner.  On the way back tonight we saw our very first rainbow. Both Jenn and I were excited, cant you tell in the photo? Take a look at some of our other photos that Jenn has pulled together:

Day 11 – Forts and Castles

by Jenn

This morning we left Kilorglin to make the grand circle tour of the Ring of Kerry.  The ring is littered with ruins from centuries old stone monuments and gives stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Of course the weather was rainier than it has been for us, so we couldn’t see AS much as we would have liked, but we didn’t let it get us down, playing in the rain and warming up with coffee.

The first castle we stopped at was Ballycarbery which had fallen into disrepair after 500 years without an occupant.  The castle had ivy growing on one half of the remaining wall and looked fantastic, photogenically speaking.  The second stone structure we visited was the Stone Age fort of Cahergal which was used from time to time to ward off pesky invaders from stealing livestock.  We then drove just a few more km to take the ferry to Valentia Island.  It was a short ferry, and it felt a little odd moving when we knew the car wasn’t moving.  It caught us by surprise, the attendant said “We don’t wait around and there is no going back”  (insert diabolical laugh here).  On the island there was an opportunity to see some 385 million year old tetrapod footprints.  I was excited to see them Jenn said.  Just call me Ross of this relationship.  I even go to do some pre-historic planking next to them.  That is them near my head in the photo.  One small step for a tetrapod, one giant leap for evolution.

Chocolate and coffee followed shortly after and so did all the buses.  We got stuck behind a basket full of buses as we made the return journey to Killarney this afternoon.  These small roads are not meant for huge tour buses and our little put-put cars to be on the same road.  We are now at our B&B for the night and it is a cute one.  Dinner in town and a nice relaxing night are ahead of us.

Here are today’s photos (first couple are from dinner at the Kilorglin Golf Course last night):

Day 10 – Killarney National Park & Muckross House

by Jenn

This morning we got a later start at 10 am and drove the short distance to Kilarney National Park. We parked at the famous Muckross house, currently undergoing some rebuilding. We took the path along the river up to Torc falls. A small waterfall but lovely none the less. As we continued our 2-3 mile walk we had great views of the middle lake ( three lakes come together in this park at an interesting crossroads).  At Dinis Cottage we had a small piece if pie as we waited for a boat to come pick us up and bring us back to Muckross house. The boatman askersd if we had seen ” the meeting of the waters” we said no assuming we had to get out of the boat to go see them. Instead he turned the boat around and motored us into the center of the three rivers.  It was interesting to see all three different waters converge on one spot.

The remaining 20 minute boat ride was well worth the 14 euro and we enjoyed the insight the boatman had on these lands after working here for 15 years.  Viewing the forest from the water was a different vantage point I am glad Jenn suggested.  Following arrival back at Muckross house we went shopping and then back into town to get our laundry we had dropped off earlier. I wish I could always get my clothes washed, dried and folded by someone else.  (Jenn inserts, “oh wait, you do!”)  We are now at our next B&B relaxing before dinner.

Here are the photos thus far:

Day 9 Part 2 – The Dingle Peninsula

by Jenn

This afternoon once we were settled in the new B&B, Jenn and I went around the Dingle Peninsula.  It says it should take 4 hours and we did it in about 3, with some longer stops for my necessary Ogham stone photo.  We began with some stops at really old stones structures called “beehives” these were circular structures built in 500 BC, that is 2,500 years ago.  They protected the early Irish folk from the harsh winds and kept the food, women & children safe from attackers.  Following that we traveled further along the coast taking pictures of the wonderful blue waters, green hills and perfect sky.  We had to stop at a special spot for me.  That spot was an ogham stone on the hillside that one could say is the western most point in Europe you can walk to.  The stone was used as a mile marker before there were maps.  I was inspired to find the location because I loved a wallpaper for my computer that was taken there.  I did a pretty good job of photos for myself once on the summit of the hill.  On other hills we saw the remnants of potatoes left in the ground from the great famine of the 1850s. It is tragic to think that over 75% of the population in this region died or moved away because there was not enough food to eat.

A bit more driving got us to the Gallarus Oratory.  This structure is water proof & wind proof and built in 1200 AD by monks to celebrate early Christian holidays.  Finally we ended up at a 15th century church that had fallen into disrepair, it was interesting to see some of the old Gaelic headstones mixed in with the newer Christian crosses.  This truly is a land where history is all around.  I find it so wonderful here and hope to come back to trace the McNeil roots when we have better records to search old cemeteries.

We stopped back in the town of Dingle for a few beers and a delicious pizza and are now fit to retire at 10:30pm – late but still the tiniest bit of light outside.  Here is our trip around the peninsula:

Day 9 – Driving to Dingle

by Jenn

Not many stops today so far today – just got into Vantry where we had to be reaccomodated at another b&b due to a family loss.  I much appreciate the fact that the arrangements were made for us and we weren’t left trying to figure it out on our own.  I think the plan is to go drive the peninsula next since we have so much of the day left.  We started this morning by driving down through Limerick and to the small town of Adare.  We walked the town to see the thatched roof cottages and found the McNeil coat of arms inside the heritage shop.  From there we drove to Ballyseede Castle – a small place off the side of the highway where one can stay if you please.  We only took a few photos before heading into the town of Tralee for our 2nd McDonald’s meal. =P  They have better food here than in the states.

Jeff is giving me a massage now to help with all the driving.  Here are the few photos we have taken so far:

Day 8 – Castles, Cliffs, and a Sunset

by Jenn

Yesterday had a relaxing start with a later breakfast before our short trip to Ashford Castle.  The grounds were beautiful and we enjoyed a nice stroll into some hidden garden spaces.  After the castle, we drove to Galway for lunch and dessert before heading to the B&B.

Because we arrived so early, we decided to get a head start on our plans for the next day by driving to the Cliffs of Moher.  We stopped atop the hills of the Buren for a view of the valley and walked to a tomb site which predates Stonehenge and the Pyramids.  Poulnabrone Dolmen is surrounded by the limestone of the buren and it quite a sight to see.

The Cliffs of Moher were a short drive away and although the wind nearly knocked us over, the walk to the top was worth it.  Wind blown and hungry, we drove to a nearby town for another delicious Irish meal and came back to the B&B where unfortunately, the internet was out.

But here are the photos now:

Day 5 – Northern Ireland Coast and night photos of Dublin

by Jenn

 

 

The beginning of this post should be from last night when Jenn and I went out for sunset photos of Dublin sights and the river Liffey.  It was a fun night with more traditional Irish songs and food and of course more beer!  The photos were spectacular with Jenn’s great techniques. We had a fun night and turned in early for a good nights sleep… or so we thought.  The other roommates were out so late they didn’t sleep in the room, but grabbed their gear and ran to the airport for a 6am flight.

 

The following morning started with a wrong turn from our cabbie to Avis not Hertz.  We finally got our car and Jenn drove on the left side of the road for the first time, on purpose. It was a nice drive up north to Northern Ireland. Yes it is a separate country, it is a providence of the UK.  On our drive we went to Tolleymore Forest Park and then lunch in a small farming village. The big highlight was when we went to take photos of a fantastically beautiful road called The Dark Hedges.  We and five other groups of people took photos, but only we had a tripod to get in the photos ourselves.  Then we hurried over to the first B&B, Beulah Guest House, in Portrush along the Antrim coast. The inn keeper is a wonderful woman, Rachel.  She gave us a great recommendation for dinner at 55 degrees north.  Dinner hit the spot. After dinner, Jenn and I went to Giants Causeway to see the spectacular hexagonal rock formations found no where else in the world.  Although there was no sunset to see, we did get some pretty shots, I think.

 

Back at the Inn now, it is so nice to feel at home while on vacation.  Looking forward to a delicious home cooked breakfast.  This is the first B & B we have ever stayed – and it’s a great one!

 

Beer count up to 14, go us! =)

 

Here are some photos:

 

 

Pre-Flight check complete

by Jeff McNeil

The Rock of Cashel, Cahir, County Tipperary, IrelandLast night Jenn and I finished our packing and planning.  We are trying not to take as much stuff as we did in Paris this year, and even less than the previous Paris 2010 trip.  Flights begin in the morning with a stop off in Washington DC, then on to Dublin.  We will spend a few nights in downtown Dublin before getting our rental car and zipping (HA! more like leasurly stroling) through the countryside.  We have several B&Bs lined up for that country house feeling of the Irish farm.  All in all two and a half weeks around the whole country from Northern Ireland to the southern most tip.  From politically divided towns to devine crystal carings from Waterford it will be a trip to remember.  Join us by following Jenn or myself on Facebook to get daily updates on the photos and the blog posts.

Iceland Sights – Blue Lagoon

by Jeff McNeil
Iceland Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon natural geothermal hot springs

The Blue Lagoon geothermal hot springs in Iceland are one of the most popular hot springs in the world.  Rated by National Geographic as one of their bucket-list places to visit.  The hot springs are fed by a near by geothermal power plant which takes super heated water from 6000 ft within the earth to create steam to power the turbine.  The pools are the excess water pumped up from within the earth and are at a consistent 102°F.  Your average spa is set to 103°F.  In Iceland the summer months have mild day time temperatures to allow slowly dip into thw warm water, however in the winter the outside air temp can be hovering around 32°F… you will see just how fast can you jump into the water.

Recent films or shows shot in Iceland were Prometheus, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, James Bond: Die Another Day, Amazing Race, America’s Top Model & the Bachelorette.

Ireland + Iceland = Happy Jennifer

by Jeff McNeil

Northern Lights above IcelandWe are going to the I-lands, Ireland and Iceland!  We just booked our flight to Reykjavik this afternoon and are extremely excited about it.  I am sure you are wondering why we want to go to a frozen land during the coldest month of the year?  Two words… aurora borealis.  In the longer days of winter, in the higher latitudes you get the best conditions for the auroras.  Jenn and I are going to pack our warm clothes, grab our camera gear and hop a plane to Iceland.  When we land there will be only 4 hours of “daylight” when the sun is in the sky, the remainder of the time will be twilight or night as the earth spins away from the sun.

From Wikipedia, the universal source for all known knowledge:

An aurora (plural: aurorae or auroras) is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere). The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and, on Earth, are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field into the atmosphere. Aurora is classified as diffuse or discrete aurora. Most aurorae occur in a band known as the auroral zone,which is typically 3° to 6° in latitudinal extent and at all local times or longitudes. The auroral zone is typically 10° to 20° from the magnetic pole defined by the axis of the Earth’s magnetic dipole. During a geomagnetic storm, the auroral zone will expand to lower latitudes. The diffuse aurora is a featureless glow in the sky which may not be visible to the naked eye even on a dark night and defines the extent of the auroral zone. The discrete aurora are sharply defined features within the diffuse aurora which vary in brightness from just barely visible to the naked eye to bright enough to read a newspaper at night. Discrete aurorae are usually observed only in the night sky because they are as bright as the sunlit sky. Aurorae occasionally occur poleward of the auroral zone as diffuse patches or arcs (polar cap arcs), which are generally invisible to the naked eye.

In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. Discrete aurorae often display magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or glow unchanging for hours, most often in fluorescent green.