Well-travelled and slightly world-weary, I was glad to be home after five weeks traversing Europe with Matt, the kids and my parents. Despite there being six of us with a range of personalities and interests, Lincoln’s non-stop talking, and oftentimes close quarters, we all emerged at the Sydney Airport arrivals hall with relationships intact, and without having suffered any of the Griswold shenanigans. I’m also amazed that nothing serious was lost (except a souvenir pen from Rome) or left behind (just a white nit comb**) out of the five suitcases through four countries and countless accommodation stops.
Our first destination was Dublin, Ireland. To get there, we flew from Sydney to Bangkok; Bangkok to Copenhagen; and finally, Copenhagen to Dublin. It must have been around 30 hours of transit. Our kids have handled the lengthy transport remarkably well. They always have. Always amused by whatever inflight entertainment is available, they are content to sit and keep to themselves for the duration. It was us that couldn’t handle their boundless energy once we were between transportation, often with a couple of hours or more to kill, and that’s when we were short-tempered and irritable.
Once we arrived in Dublin, we decompressed in our hotel, picked up our red minivan, and slept off the jet-lag before beginning the trip of a life time. What strikes us all about Ireland are the stunning floral displays in the window boxes on houses and shops. I also loved the colourful exteriors and the personality they give the place. Our first day sightseeing was spent at the Wax Museum and Trinity College, where we toured the grounds and saw the Book of Kells. Walking through Temple Bar on the way back to our car, I could just imagine the rowdy nights of drinking and singing that must take place during high tourist season. And when Contiki Tours are in town.
After lunch we made our way to our next accommodation, which was a farmhouse property not far from the sea port village of Kinvarra. For six of us travelling together, we managed to keep costs down by using Airbnb for a few of our accommodation stops. We stayed here for a few nights while we explored County Galway and The Burren. Galway itself, was alive with tourists and buskers. We walked along the cobblestones, soaking in the atmosphere and marvelling at the colour. Deciding to continue on up the west coast of Ireland we drove past the Twelve Bens mountains and stumbled on Ballynahinch Castle, a high-end fly-fishing destination that had the tastiest seafood chowder and mushroom soup; and stopped in at Aughnanure Castle, an impressive tower house from the 1500s.
The next day we headed for County Clare, to see the Cliffs of Moher. Past ancient, tumble-down rock walls and the green patchwork fields, the Burren coast leads to the cliffs. Black and sheer, they are an imposing sight. But I think the best part about Burren is the smokehouse. Here, they smoke salmon and sell a variety of cheeses, other smoked fish and deli goods.
We said goodbye to our farmhouse and headed for Killarney via Limerick. In honour of Limerick I challenged the family to making up some limericks. Here is one I made up:
There once was lady from Shannon
She won a game of backgammon
She was on the front page
of the County Clare Age
because she played the game with a salmon.
Not as picturesque as Kinvarra, Killarney has it’s own charm with jarveys and jaunty cars. Part of the reason Ireland was on our itinerary was to get a feel for where my Dad’s ancestors came from. About thirty minutes away from Killarney is Tralee – the town my great (great great?) grandfather was born. And, though we’d intended to trace some of the history, none of us actually thought to bring the genealogy research that had been done, so we were unable to work with the local librarian to find out which of the district’s 25 Cornelius Enrights actually belonged to us. Oh wells. Walking the streets and gardens of Tralee, I knew that Enrights would have walked these streets before us. After the comparatively dull and great Tralee we arrived to a cheerful but raining Dingle. Again, the colourful buildings line the streets and harbour, and we’re taken by the scenery while the boys run around on the grass playing Star Wars with each other.
We made sure to see some other famous County Kerry spots like Ross Castle and Muckross House, before starting on our longer drive to Waterford. Waterford was our last destination before heading back to Dublin and we all agreed that the Waterford Crystal factory was a fabulous way to finish. The tour took us right through the working factory, which was still manned with skeleton staff on a Sunday (Father’s Day in Australia). We watched the skilled craftsmen blowing and moulding the glass, hand marking, and etching. Fraser was lucky enough to be able to sit and hold the 2012 London Paralympics trophy which will be presented at the event next year.
Back in Dublin, on our last morning in Ireland, Fraser was sleeping off a tummy bug. Mum offered to keep an eye on him while the rest of us went for a Viking Splash Tour of Dublin. In an old army aqua-duck vehicle (or boat-bus as Lincoln called it), the tour driver had a thick Irish accent and a sense of humour. We got a whistle-stop tour of most of the sights and finished off at the basin where U2’s recording studio was pointed out. Highly recommended if you don’t mind a dirty joke or two.
We scrambled back to the hotel after the Viking Splash tour to make check-out time, drop off the car and head across to the airport for our next leg: Rome.
For more photos check out the Ireland set on Flickr.** I am very sad to have lost our white nit comb. You can only buy nit combs in black these day. Lord knows why, when head lice are dark brown!