Category Archives: travel

Back to Bethesda — Day 19

We sat near the check-in counter to wait.

We sat near the check-in counter to wait.

This morning we returned the car — no extra charges, surprisingly — and arrived at the airport too early to check out baggage. We sat near the check-in counter until we could check-in and then found seating near our gate.

Dean and Andrew using time wisely

Dean and Andrew using time wisely

We had a very expensive breakfast — close to $60 and then Clare and I looked at shops while Dean and Andrew did something else. Before Clare and I were finished looking at too expensive trinkets, Dean told us that our gate was changed. I said we’d be along shortly and he and Andrew went back to the old gate to wait for us.  When we decided we were done shopping, we went to the gate but didn’t see them. I wasn’t sure if they were going back to the gate or if they were going to the new gate. Anyway, we had some high family drama when we finally did meet up — them blaming us and us blaming them.

Boarding the Plane -- Irish Style

Boarding the Plane -- Irish Style

By the time we boarded the plane we’d recovered from the drama. We were disappointed to see that the plane was an older model and didn’t have the monitors in the seatbacks, but overhead.

Dinner was ok. The movie was sophomoric. The flight seemed long.

But we’d just had a wonderful family trip to a country I’d wanted to visit since I’d been there last. Each of us brought back memories we’ll keep with us all our lives and it bonded us together more than we could have hoped.

I’d love to go back someday, but even if I never step foot on Irish soil again I can look back on this trip.

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Northern Ireland::Belfast to Dublin — Day 18

Dona in the window seat at Roe Loft

Dona in the window seat at Roe Loft

We finished packing this morning and while the kids packed I settled with Sarah. We had a nice chat about our Derry visit and life before peace in this area. She told me that she used to be nervous when she’d visit the area during the Troubles. She is from England and Feeny is mainly Catholic. She agrees with me that it is going to take a lot of work on both sides if the peace is going to last.

I spent a few moments writing a comment in the comment book of Roe Loft. I’d read some of the comments by guests that came before us, and found some of them moving. It’s hard to think of what to say in a guest book, but I managed to thank Sarah and Chris for their hospitality and tell them how special their home was.

Tara and Maggie

Tara and Maggie

Then we said goodbye to Drumcovitt House. Clare ran around taking photographs of the house and dogs while we waited in the car, setting up the GPS to get us to Dublin by way of Belfast where I wanted to stop and see the CS Lewis statue and Little Lea, the house where Lewis lived as a child.

The drive to Belfast was unremarkable. We were all tired and perhaps a little glad to be heading home. Well, Andrew was not glad since he had wrestling camp to go to a few days later.

Little Lea

Little Lea

When we got to Belfast it took a while to locate the two landmarks we were seeking. We nearly gave up on the statue — Dean seemed very uncomfortable driving in the city. We drove around for a while, then found the road where Little Lea was located. Dean parked the car and we walked past the house and back again to the car, snapping two photos of the house. Because it is a private residence, I was a little shy about loitering for very long. I remembered reading about Little Lea in Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. The house is supposed to be what he based Professor Kirke’s house on in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Dona at the C. S. Lewis statue

Dona at the C. S. Lewis statue

After seeing Little Lea, we drove around some more and eventually found the library where the C. S. Lewis Centenary Statue is located. We drove around for a while, then finally found a parking space but then we couldn’t find the statue. We drove around some more and then, because I’d already seen the statue as we passed and was about to give up on getting to actually touch it, when we saw that we could park behind the library. Whew!

I remember when this statue was dedicated — the year Lewis would have been 100 years old had he still been alive. I was on the now defunct Mere Lewis list at the time and heard about it there. I never expected to see the statue in person because, after all, it was in war-torn Northern Ireland. Or so I believed, not having heard the news about the peace agreement. (I think I should read the news more often).

C. S. Lewis statue in Belfast, Northern Ireland

C. S. Lewis statue in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Anyway, we took some photos of the statue, Clare and I even posed in the chair in front of the statue.

After the Lewis stops we drove towards Dublin on the biggest road we’d seen since we got to Ireland. We stopped for a picnic lunch in a dingy and depressing town of Newry.

We checked into our hotel, the Ardmore, and had a little rest. Then Dean and I had a drink at the bar while the kids stayed in the rooms watching television. After that we all went down to the bar for a decent and long dinner.

We’re staying in tonight although Dublin is not far away. I guess we are all travel weary.

Roe Loft at Drumcovitt Barn, Feeny, Northern Ireland — Day 15

Parkduff Cottage and the 4 Ones

Parkduff Cottage and the 4 Ones


We left County Clare and Parkduff Cottage this morning with mixed emotions. On one hand, the house was dusty & cobwebby and had only the minimum of necessities (like forks). On the other hand, it was by the sea. Clare and Andrew liked the house better than Clare and I did. They liked the cottagey feel of it.

Along the route

Along the route -- this may be Yeates country

The drive to Feeny & Drumcovitt House was long and tiring. The countryside, though beautiful, was not a lot different than what we’d seen before — cows, trees, pastures, dry stone walls, sheep, and occasionaly mountains.

We stopped for lunch at a small town on the way and rested from the ride so far and for the ride ahead. Our GPS was set for the next accomodation and we finally arrived at 5:00 pm. There was really no indication that we were entering another country when we crossed the border into Northern Ireland. What difference peace and a few years makes!

Drumcovitt House

Drumcovitt House

Drumcovitt House itself is a lovely manor house with a round tower. It is over 300 years old and until a couple of years ago was a bed and breakfast. Now the young Sloan family lives in the house, and only the barn rooms are available for rent.

When we got to the house we were all ready for a nice rest, then dinner. I rang the doorbell of the office and was greeted by dogs barking. I tried again, but no luck. The owners knew we were coming and said everything would be in order, so I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. Dean was unhappy about this turn off events.

Drumcovitt Barn

Drumcovitt Barn

Clare was the one to notice a wet envelope on the pavement about two yards from the office door. She picked it up and saw that it had a name on it. She realized it was for us and opened the envelope. Inside was a note from Sarah, the proprietor, apologizing for not being there — they were celebrating their son’s birthday away from the house– and telling us to make ourselves at home.

Tara ourside Drumcovitt Barn

Tara outside Drumcovitt Barn

We walked around the barn and tried the doorknob of Roe Loft. It didn’t budge. I re-read the note and saw that Sarah mentioned a key she was going to put into the envelope. I looked in the envelope, but it wasn’t there. We went back around the barn to see if perhaps the key had fallen out. Clare did it. I did it. Dean did it and I think Andrew also looked. No key. Door locked. No one home.

I then noticed that Sarah had given me her cell number, so I made my first cell call in Ireland with my Sidekick (that I’d set up to use to make calls overseas). Sarah answered right away and after I introduced myself she said, in a sticken voice, “I forgot to leave the key!” She then apologized and said she’d have someone come around straight away to open the door for us.

Grounds of Drumcovitt House

Grounds of Drumcovitt House

A few minutes later a young woman in a car tore up the driveway, let herself in the house, then came out and unlocked Roe Loft for us.

The house is lovely. The kids especially liked the cable television — lots of channels. We unpacked and settled in. Dean and I went to town and bought some food for dinner.

Clare, Andrew and I went on a tour of the grounds. This is a working farm with sheep and cattle. We walked along the fairy trail, hoping to spot some fairies. While we didn’t see any fairies, Clare saw what she thought was the rump of a goat walking over a small bridge. We later discovered it was probably a badger.

Drumcovitt Cows

Drumcovitt Cows

We stood in the middle of the field. The sheep were curious, but then ran away. The cows just kept on coming closer and closer — and even licked our raincoats. We think they liked the salt from our Skellig adventure.

For dinner we ate pan fried steak, prepared chicken Kiev, vegetarian chicken nuggets for Clare and a salad.

The kids are watching television and Dean has gone to bed. I’m writing this from the bed that Clare and I are sharing. (this cottage only has two bedrooms so the girls are sharing a bed and the guys get the twin bedroom).

Because tomorrow is forcast to be sunny, we think we’re going to drive along the Antrim coast.

More Day 15 photographs on Flickr.

Co. Kerry::Dingle Peninsula — Day 3

On Monday, July 7, we drove to the Dingle Peninsula. First, however, we drove to Tralee — the town made famous by the song, The Rose of Tralee. Don’t worry if you’d never heard of the song — neither had I. Here’s a version of it.

In August women from all over the world compete for the title of The Rose of Tralee.

Anyway, we got some cash in Tralee and a few groceries at a Dunnes store. I also bought some slippers. Dunnes has groceries and clothes. I guess it’s kind of like a Super Target or Super Walmart.

After Tralee we headed out to the road to Dingle. We first passed some mud flats with shorebirds. I would have liked to stop to see the birds, but roads in Ireland are not conducive to just stopping. Clare was asleep at this point. I think the jet lag was catching up on her.

As we drove further out to the end of the Dingle Peninsula we saw mountains in the distance and the shore was to our right — one beach hosted huge waves and a number of surfers.

View from the Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninsula

View from the Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninsula

Clare woke up when we got to the Conor Pass which, according to the Dingle Peninsula website, is the highest mountain pass in Ireland.  It was pretty amazing, and a little scary as Dean navigated the curves in the road.

Sheep on the road -- Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninusla

Sheep on the road -- Conor Pass -- Dingle Peninusla

At one point we saw some sheep on the road, so we stopped and admired the scenery and Clare chased the sheep.

After that, Clare, Dean and Andrew walked — despite the gale force winds — to the top of a hill. I was too tired, or cold or apprehensive of the height to accompany them.

After our brief break we drove onto Dingle and had a lunch of cheese, bread and fruit. Irish cheese is delicious — creamy and filling. We looked around at the shops in Dingle, but everything seemed too touristy.

Doorway to Dunbeg Circle fort

Doorway to Dunbeg Circle fort

After Dingle, we drove to Dunbeg Promontory Fort, not too far out of Dingle, towards the end of the peninsula. We watched an embarrassingly amateur video about the fort in the visitor’s center and toured the fort. Had I known the fairy folk may have built it, I may have had more interest in it.

Afterward we drove to some “beehive” huts — more “fairy folk” homes.

Gallarus Oratory -- Dingle Peninusla

Gallarus Oratory -- Dingle Peninusla

We drove on for a while, stopping to look at the Blasket Islands. These islands were evacuated in the 1950’s and hosted many poets and writers. We missed the Blasket Island Info Center, but did go to the Gallarus Oratory which was an early Christian church.

We then drove home, through Dingle and stopped briefly at Inch Beach where Dean and Andrew checked out the beach and Clare and I examined slugs.

For dinner we cooked pork chops braised in Druids Celtic Cider with an apple and brown bread dressing. Clare made killer mashed potatoes.

Dean retired early and Clare, Andrew and I stayed up to listen to Prince Caspian and watch the news. The weather man seemed so sad that his prediction was nothing but rain, rain and more rain.

More Day 3 Photos on Flickr

Tralia House, Firies, Co. Kerry, Ireland — 12:45 pm — Day 1

Inside our rental car

Clare inside our rental car

We landed around 6:30 am, rented a car, got euros (not enough) and headed off to County Kerry and our first Self-catering accommodation, Tralia House. At the car rental booth we had a bit of a hassle about insurance, but I’d heard that renting a car in Ireland was tricky because they tack on so many extra fees. The explanation is that there are more cars about now and the roads are not very good, thus more accidents. The car rental companies don’t want to be stuck with large bills so they require renters to pay up-front.

The drive down to Kerry is better left forgotten. In retrospect we should have not attempted to drive 5 hours after very little sleep. Dean opted for a manual transmission, and of course the Irish drive on the left side of the road, so it all made for an interesting ride.

The road to Firies (pronounced fi-rees) from Dublin is beautiful. We saw a few ruins along the way and once I saw a fox in a green field.  I also saw wood pigeons, magpies and a swan.

Ballina, Co. Tipperary

Ballina, Co. Tipperary

We stopped in a small town called Ballina, which is on the southern tip of Lough Derg. Dean had a half hour nap, I had 40 winks. Clare took a stroll around the area.

We drove into town, but coming back was frightening. The narrow roads and parked cars (in the roads) and crowds of people walking (in the roads) caused much anxiety (a taste of things to come?).

We continued our journey to Tralia House and were doing fine until our GPS insisted we go through a roadblock. We avoided it, but she insisted we turn around. We ignored her the third time and then got very lost. Either the GPS was pouting, or the roads we traveled were not mapped. In any case we ended up on some very narrow roads that would have been scary to drive even if Dean wasn’t dead tired driving an unfamiliar car in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road.

We eventually found Farranfore, the small town with the roadblock again and asked for directions to Firies at a food store. The cashier, a friendly young woman, was very helpful and showed us, in-person — she left her cash-register, the road we needed to turn onto to get to Firies. She said the next town we came to would be Firies.

We returned to the car and drove the road as directed. Before too long we arrived at a tiny town (with lots of new development), parked in a pub parking lot called The Stands Bar (which used to be Johnny’s Bar — I’d seen a photo of it online) and phoned Áine (pronounced on-ya) to let her know we’d arrived. After a little confusion on the phone, probably resulting from my accent, I spoke to Áine who said she’d be right there.

Tralia House

Tralia House

After waiting a few minutes we saw her car (she described it as an Audi Jeep — but perhaps the Irish say Jeep when we say SUV?) and followed her the mile or so to Tralia House. When we turned down what looked to be a dirt road, but was actually a very long driveway, I was a little concerned, but when I saw the two story yellow house in person, the concerns disappeared completely. It was more beautiful than in the online photos.

Áine showed us the inside of the house, explained how the hot water and power shower worked, and told us about places to visit in the area. When we explained that we hadn’t exchanged enough money at the airport to settle with her, she immediately asked if we needed some Euros to tide us over! We said we had enough for a day, but thanked her for her offer — we just couldn’t pay for the house yet.

A cozy fire at Tralia House

A cozy fire at Tralia House

Áine’s husband, Liam, arrived then, with a bag of wood for the solid fuel stove. He also left a bucket of coal in the shed if we wanted to use it as well. He showed Dean how to light the fire. Áine and Liam stayed for a while, talking about places to visit. They offered us the use of their phone for when we needed to make reservations for places and encouraged us to “call [on] them whenever we needed to — their house was around the corner. Áine even offered to buy us a chicken to cook, or even one already cooked, for dinner — or drive me to the store to get one. We told her we brought some food from home, and were planning on having a simple meal, then going to bed.

Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal

Kitchen in Tralia House -- our first meal

We ate our first meal in our first house in Ireland — Annie’s Mac and Cheese with canned tuna. It felt like dinnertime, but was only around 3 pm in Ireland.

Áine and Liam are possibly the nicest hosts I’ve ever met. Later that evening Liam came back with a map and a handwritten note from Áine about some of the places we’d discussed to visit. He also brought his eldest child, a son called Patrick. The also brought two extra bicycles.

Dean, Clare and Andrew took a bike ride while I stayed at the house and looked at some birds.

I saw several rooks (that have a roost in the large tree behind the house — probably more than 20 nests). They are loud and when they loose their feathers (which they often do) the feathers fall to the ground like “whirlybird” maple tree seeds do).  I also saw a winter wren and swallows. I also heard a bird with an American Robin-like song, that may have been a thrush.

A curious cow, just outside our front gate

A curious cow, just outside our front gate

I watched the cattle walk from their field to get milked and shot a few photos and a video of them.

When the kids got back they showed me where they’d been exploring. We saw a pile of rubble that may have once been a house (or perhaps it was from the house we were now staying in — it had gone through a major renovation recently). We also saw a couple of old buildings, one looked like it was once a home — with two rooms and a fireplace. We disturbed the rooks, who were sent flying and cawwing.

Dean, at my request, had gone into town for a bottle of wine. When he returned we had a glass of wine, then I cooked some scrambled eggs and Irish rashers (which Áine had bought for us at my request) for dinner.

After dinner Dean went to bed and the rest of us took showers. I’d tried to take a bath, but the water never got hot enough to actually bathe and the radiator in the bathroom didn’t work. Too much cold for my taste.

The weather is reasonable. Sure, it’s in the mid- to low-60’s, but when the sun shines it feels warmer. We also brought plenty of warm clothing.

The kids and I went to bed after Dean. Andrew crashed at 8:30, I succumbed to my exhaustion at 9:15. Clare held out until past midnight (at which time, she informed us, it’s still light outside).

More photos of Day 1 on Flickr.

Airplane — 5:45 GMT — We’re almost there

Sunset or sunrise on the way to Ireland

Sunset or sunrise on the way to Ireland

The kids took photos of the sunset (or sunrise).

Dean had a little nap. I did too, on the pull-out tray and even began to dream, but now my neck hurts.

According to the flight info, we’ve got about a half hour to go. I don’t know how Dean is going to be able to drive the five hours to the house.

More airplane photos on Flickr.

Airplane — 2:15 am GMT — Dinner and a Movie

Dean on airplane

Dean on airplane

Clare’s dinner turned out to be vegan. She didn’t eat much.

Andrew, Dean and I had the beef entre. Reminded me of the time I returned to the US from England and began eating meat on the plane — Beef tips. It wasn’t good, but not awful.

Watching “Be Kind, Rewind” Not bad.

Airplane — 7:45 (Eastern Standard Time)

We had a nice surprise in that we expected no in-seat monitors and we got an airplane that has them, so we will be entertained.

I left Rupert at home. Simply forgot him. He wasn’t even on my to-do list, although I did think about it at least one time this week.

Airport — 5:20 pm — Waiting at the Airport

Andrew and Clare discussing literature while playing cards.

Andrew and Clare discussing literature while playing cards.

We’ve gotten snacks and are waiting for 6:10 when we can board. Clare and Andrew are discussing second-person narrative style and iambic pentameter.

David Weatherer drove us here. Good ol’ David!

Other airport photos on Flickr.