Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ireland, Cobh, Cork and Blarney

We left our Waddell and Reed friends and headed by train to the Southwest part of Ireland. You have to appreciate that when we are with the Waddell and Reed Group they have people that take care of EVERYTHING. So striking out on our own in a foreign country was exciting. We arranged a tour through the Irish Rain Tour Company. They had someone in a bright yellow jacket to meet us at every stop along the way.

Our first stop was in Cork. From there we got on a bus and went to Blarney, home of the famous Blarney Castle. There are lots of beautiful castles in Ireland, but Blarney Castle has capitalized on it's legendary "Blarney Stone". Thousands of tourist come in by the bus load to kiss stone that is suspended over the top wall of the castle. Smoochers have to lay on their backs and lean out and down over the wall while someone holds their legs to reach the stone and give it a big wet smooch. Legend has it that a kiss on the stone will grant the smoocher the "gift of eloquence in speech"

We decided to skip the eight flights of stairs through narrow medieval passageways packed with anxious smoochers and we walked over the to Blarney House. We were the only two on a wonderful tour of this fantastic house. The house is still a family residence of the family that owns the castle and grounds. They had tastefully covered over the electronics and plasma TVs with 18th Century privacy screens.

The Blarney Stone is at the top of the wall.
Irish Country side passing by the train.
Next stop was Cobh (Pronounced COVE). This is the launch site of the Titanic on it's fateful journey. This is where millions of Irish left for America. This is also the closest harbor to where the Lusitania was sunk on May 7th 1915 by a German submarine. 1198 of the passengers died and 761 were saved. The survivors were brought to Cobh and there is a mass burial site in the nearby cemetery. In the 1800s the town was renamed Queenstown to honor the Queen of England. Apparently there were no towns in Ireland named after her. Once Ireland gained it's independence the name was changed back to it's Gaelic origins of Cobh.
Mass grave site of Lusitania victims.

Memorial to Lusitania victims.
Annie Moore left for America from Cobh. She became the very first person to pass through Ellis Island in New York Harbor on January 1, 1892.
This is the embarkation station for the Titanic. It is now a museum.
We arrived at our hotel in Killarney, the International Hotel. Built in the mid 1800s. It wasn't the Ritz Carton like the suite we had in Eineskerry , but it was a perfect location for our adventures to come in County Kerry.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ireland, Dublin

One of the key historical sites in Dublin is Trinity College. Built in the 1500s and home to some impressive alumni: Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker to name a few that I recognized. It is also home to the Book of Kells. It is a beautifully hand illustrated manuscript of the four gospels dating back to AD 800s. It is considered one of Irelands national treasures. It open for viewing, but we really didn't get a good look at the real thing. Some lady was quite intent on hovering over it and reading the whole thing.
I doubt she read ancient Latin. Also of note is the old library. ( no pictures) It looked something out of a Harry Potter movie with over 200,000 books from 200 to 300 years ago.

We took a little side trip to the coastal town of Howth.

With our friends Tom and Cyndie Miller in Howth.
Of course we had to see the first showing of the new Harry Potter movie. Here we are with our friends the Barbaras outside Cineworld Dublin.
Just outside of Dublin is the Malahide Castle. This was the home of the Talbot Family for over 800 years.
This has got to be the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. Jared take note.

Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced Jail) is another of the Irish sites of great historical significance. It is here where the leaders of the 1916 uprising at the Post Office were imprisioned and most of them shot. It was the simpathy for these leaders that turned the hearts and minds of a greater number of Irishmen to support the move for separation and independence from England.
The inscription above the door reads: "Beware of the risen people that have harried and held, ye that have bullied and bribed".

This is the General Post Office. The Revolution that began the road to Ireland's independence in 1916 began here.

Marla and our friend Cyndie Miller on Grafton Street in Dublin.
City view Dublin.
While in Dublin we visited Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Patrick was an itinerant preacher who came to Ireland in AD 432. He was not the first Christian but is considered most influencial in the spread of Christianity on the Island. Out side the Cathedral is an interesting statue of Benjamin Lee Guinness. ( Of beer brewing fame) Apparently he paid for a new floor in the Catheldral after Oliver Cromwell kept his draft horses in the Cathedral after one of the many squirmishes between the British and the Irish. The Origins of the Cathedral go back to the 12th Century.

This is a view of Christ Church Cathedral. Also dating from the 12th century.
City view of Dublin.

On our way to Dublin we stopped in the coastal town of Dalkey for a "Pub Crawl" There is plenty of drinking going on in a "Pub Crawl" (We became especially fond of Orange and Lemon Club. Non -Alcoholic sodas.) There is also entertainment along the way. In one pub we watched Irish Dancing, in another we learned to play the Tin Whistle and Bodhron (Pronounced Bodron) (Irish drum), and in the final pub we listened to a great traditional music session while every else tasted whiskey.
Coastal view of Dalkey.

Ireland, County Wicklow

This year's trip for Waddell and Reed was to Ireland. We started our adventure in County Wicklow in a little town called Einneskerry. There is a beautiful English Estate from the 1840s there called Powerscourt. We stayed in the Ritz Carlton next to the Estate. Very nice accommodations. We were in a suite with our own balcony. We had a wonderful view of Sugar Loaf peak the dominant part of the surrounding landscape.

Our first activity was a visit and demonstration from a Falconer. Here is Marla holding a baby barn owl.

I'm holding a Red Tailed Hawk. We have a lot of these birds at home, but I've never been up this close. They are beautiful creatures. The Falconer gave us a demonstration of their hunting abilities.
We had a very nice suite for this leg of our stay. This is the marble bath room. Notice the "in mirror" TV set. Just in case we got too far away from the TV

Here is Marla just outside the Gardens at Powerscourt. There is not a lot to see in the old Estate. There was a fire in the 1970s that gutted the inside. The gardens were incredible.

This is the Japanese Tea garden section of the garden. It's amazing what 160 years can do for the tree population. The watch tower below was modeled after a pepper shaker on the dinner table.

On Sunday evening we had a private dinner at the Kilruddery House. It is still a private residence of the Earl and Lady Smyth. Their family has been in the house for a couple of hundred years. We met the Earl and Lady and had a tour and dinner in their home. There were beautiful gardens here as well.
While in Einneskerry we went to Church. There is branch of the LDS church in Bray. It was about 4 miles away. This was very fortunate for us since there are very few branches of the church outside of Dublin. As we have found in other places of the world, the church is the same everywhere and we easily made friends. They were even on the same Sunday School Lesson as we would have been in Nevada.
We now traveled to Dublin. On the way we stopped for some "Pub Crawling" in the town of Dalkey, a lovely town on the coast. One stop we had Irish Dancing, one stop we learned how to play the tin whistle, and the bodhran (pronounced bowron) (an Irish drum). The last stop was a whiskey tasting stop. ( we drank lemonade) They had a great traditional group playing Irish Music.