Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ireland, Day 3, June 11

The second part of day 3 brought us to the Castle Blarney.  This structure was built in 1446 and has had changed hands several times over the centuries. 

These are photos of the great banquet hall.  It was three stories and had decadent touches throughout the hall.  Sometimes it was two stories and sometimes it was three, depending on what the occupants wanted during that current renovation.  Apparently castles were always undergoing renovation...

Views from the top of Blarney Castle.  The photo on the right is part of the formal gardens on the grounds of the Blarney Castle.  The photo on the left is a photo of the county from the top of the castle.  The 160+ steps to the top of the castle were worth it just for the views!

The Blarney Stone.  You have to lean waaaaaay back and kiss the bottom of the rampart.  And look over your head at the ground over 170 feet below you.  Yikes!  The reason there's only one photo of J is because I was still shaking too hard to hold the camara when he was actually kissing the stone.  So, we bought the professional photograph they took for us because I'm a big weenie. 

The Blarney Stone is said to be part of the stone that the kings of Ireland were crowned on.  No one's sure of where the stone came from for sure.  And no one's sure how it came to be part of the castle.
A very nice woman (from Texas!) took our photo on top of the castle.  It sure was windy up there!

These are my two favorite pictures from the Blarney Castle.  These views were amazing!!  Definitely worth every narrow step and counter-clockwise staircase. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ireland, Day 3, June 11

So, I might still be writing this at Christmas.

The driving in Ireland was difficult for us.  We were dropped off in the heart of Dublin with a car to drive on the wrong side of the road, with a driver sitting on the wrong side of the car, and driving a standard transmission.  Poor J.  It took both of us to drive while in Ireland.  One to do the actual driving, and one to say, "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!  THIS IS A ONE WAY STREET!!  AAAHHHHHHH!"  Guess which one of us did what...

 This is a two way street.  That's right.  Two ways.  I was glad I was on the other side of the car. 

Another two way street.  This was on the world's longest detour.  Grrrr.  J had quite a time driving through this.

Finally, a street wide enough to actually have two cars pass each other without lots of prayer.

Views from the car.  It was lovely!
 More views from the passenger side of the car.
A charming bucolic scene from the passenger side of my car.  This is the south eastern part of Ireland.

More lovely scenery from the car window.  It was so nice (being a passenger).

 A major highway.  The speed limit was 120 kph (approx 75 mph).  It was so nice to be on a large road and not have to turn or worry about oncoming traffic. 

In Ireland, they don't have stoplights like we do.  We went for several days without seeing a stoplight.  Instead they have roundabouts.  J got better as the week went on, but they were still harrowing for us, especially the ones in Dublin that were three or four lanes.  This is a simple two lane one, the most basic kind.  These wouldn't work so well here in the US, they actually merge and take turns in Ireland.  We're not so good at that part of the driving. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ireland Day 2 - Rewind a little

I didn't talk about our hotel.  It was so good.  We had a little trouble finding it, because the streets and houses aren't labeled as we're used to. 

We were so tired by the time we got to our first hotel in Kilkenney.  We watched a new sport called Gaelic or Irish soccer.  It's awesome!  Find it here on YouTube.  It's the most athletic sport we've ever seen. 

J fell asleep while I was in the shower, he was so tired. The bathroom was very luxurious.  What a perfect way to spend a loooooong day. 
I think this was J's favorite part of the hotel.  They only gave us one key card. The key card had to be in the slot for the electricity to be on in the room. 

This was one very nice hotel, but we only took photos of it before we gacked it all up with our dirty clothes and suitcases. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ireland, Day 3, June 11

After a much needed rest at our wonderful hotel, we hit the road again, this time to Castle Cahir.  This was our favorite castle we visited because we were able to scramble all over the castle.  No guard rails (well, just one), no off limits areas.  The whole castle was available to us to run around on, ramparts and everything.  It was so cool!
View from the upper walkway.  Look ma!  No guardrails!

We were able to run all over this castle and climb like monkeys.  The guided tour was fantastic and we learned so very much from the tour guide.  We also learned quite a bit about Irish history during this tour.  This was our first exposure to General Oliver Cromwell.  I vaguely remember him being a blip on our English history radar waaaay back in high school, but neither of us remembered anything substantial about him.  

So, here is a brief history of General Cromwell.  Just in case you're a history buff like me and haven't had time to peruse your history books recently or go to Ireland where he's a bigger part of history.  Cromwell was one of the generals on the side that won the English civil war.  He took over the Commonwealth of England after King Charles I was executed.  (*Note: he was one of the men who signed the death warrant for King Charles.) He conquered Scotland and Ireland leading to the animosity between those countries and England to this day.  Cromwell disbanded the Parliament in 1653, effectively making himself dictator.  After he died, he was buried, but his corpse was later dug up, beheaded, and hung in chains.

Cromwell was (and still is) hated in Ireland.  That may be why my history slant is negatively inclined toward Cromwell.  I heard it straight from the Irish people.  Anyway, Cromwell was only the second invader to bring cannons into Ireland.  People had never seen cannons before and they did not understand the damage cannons could do to castles and other fortifications.  

I say all that to say this, the occupants of Castle Cahir were smart enough to wave the white flag when Cromwell approached.  The castle was undamaged and was preserved for posterity, unlike many of the other   structures in Ireland.  There were no shots fired by Cromwell on this structure, and it has been very well cared for over the centuries.  

The castle was easily defensible, as it was located on an island. Two of the rivers have been filled in over the centuries, but two are still flowing.  Cannons have been fired on this structure only once, in 1599, by the Earl of Essex.  The Earl won that battle after the cannons arrived.  There are two cannon balls still embedded in the stone walls from that battle.  The cannon balls are the size of soft balls.  
You can see one cannonball over my right shoulder near the corner of the building.  It looks like a little black spot on the brick wall underneath the ledge.  That's a cannon ball.  Pretty cool, right?

The town of Cahir
One of the rivers that used to surround the island

The second of two rivers that used to make the castle an island.

Something you would never see in America.  The steps were super narrow.  Super narrow.  Like barely wider than my foot.  It was not so bad to go up, but it was much worse coming down.  It makes my palms sweat just thinking of doing it again.  BUT, the views from the top were amazing.  The ledge was about 10 feet off the ground and you could see for miles and miles when you were on top.  Pretty good spot for a look out when the castle was in use as a castle.  

Hope you enjoyed the history lesson or skipped right over it.  More to come!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ireland Day Two, June 10

So this week I've actually had to WORK at work. Who knew?

When we were on top of the Rock of Cashel (remember it was high on a hill) we saw a cute little abbey in a field below. The name of it was Hore Abbey.

A hore frost is the usually the first frost of the season, and it's generally a light gray. The name Hore Abbey came from the color of the cloaks of the people who lived in the abbey. The color of the cloaks resembled the color of the frost.

Like many of the ruins in Ireland, this one was in a field where sheep and cows were grazing. We literally had to walk by cows and over cow patties to get to the abbey. Amazing. No one wanted this pretty little ruin.

The interior of the abbey.

These are photos from the abbey looking up toward Castle Cashel. It really was a steep climb! The views from Castle Cashel down were great, but the views from the town looking up toward the castle were also phenomenal. The path we took down from the castle to the abbey was called the Death Walk. It is the path people have been taking for centuries to carry their loved ones up to the castle for burial.