Monthly Archives: July 2011

So as promised, here’s a non-photo entry about my nights out and about in Killarney. These events would have occurred on 20-21 July 2001, with the 21st being a particularly fun night that resulted in me being hung over on the morning when the family went to discover the Twomey and McCarthy villages. But to paraphrase those high-school wrestling t-shirts, “Pain is temporary, memories are forever.”

On the first night, 20 July, I left the hotel to wander about the town at 21:00. Thanks to the high latitude, there was still plenty of sunlight illuminating the skies, which is a fact that still amazes me even though I know perfectly well why this is so. The sunlight guided me to...sigh, an Internet cafe, where I made my one and only attempt on this trip to catch up on e-mail and to see if I could log into the BBSes I still frequented back then. What I remember about the Internet cafe was that the connection was about as fast as a dial-up, and that the UK-standard keyboard layout had just enough differences to throw off my touch-typing.

After 30 minutes had passed, I logged off at the slow-as-molasses Internet cafe, then headed back to the hotel only to discover that many relatives were drinking beers in the hotel lobby with Brendan Buckley, his cousin Paddy, Paddy’s wife, and Paddy’s sister. More about Paddy later....I told everyone present that I was off for a solo pub crawl, freshened up back in my room, and snagged the key from Ryan before he zonked out for the night. Attempts to get him to join me, since by Irish standards he was of legal drinking age, got rebuffed.

I peered into a few pubs--once again, let me reiterate that Killarney had over 40 pubs for a town that has 13,000 permanent residents--and happened to pick one called The Speakeasy. Why this bar? Compared to some of the other bars I looked into, The Speakeasy had two tables of people (young women, mainly) who appeared to be my age, whereas the other bars had lots of older or haggard-looking people. I felt that the clientele at The Speakeasy would be one I’d be more comfortable with, so in I went. As expected, within five minutes of me walking in and ordering a Murphy’s stout, the young women cleared out of their tables, and I got to see The Speakeasy for what it truly was: a horse-racing bar. One wall was covered with TV sets showing horse races from across the British Isles and in the US, and as luck had it, most of the TV’s were tuned into the day’s racing at...Arlington Park, a horse track that’s about 20 miles away from my then-home of Elmhurst.

Horse racing holds little appeal for me today. Ten years ago, even less so. I drained the stout, left, and eventually settled on Pub #2 for the night: McSorley’s. Again, I determined the bar by looking at the clientele, and this time I noticed that there was a larger contingency of young-looking people present. I ordered a Bulmer’s cider, and marveled at how one word, in this case, “pint,” can have such different meanings depending on where you lived. In the US, a pint is 16 ounces, with each ounce being equal to 29.6 mL. In the UK and Ireland, the imperial measurement system is still in effect for liquids, so a pint there is equal to 20 ounces, with an imperial fluid ounce equal to 28.4 mL. One imperial pint is therefore equal to 568 mL, or 19.215 US ounces. I figured this out to mean that four pints in Ireland would be roughly equivalent to five pints in the US, and with the prices ranging from £2.40 to £2.80 per pint, I would come out ahead by the time the night was over.

Math lesson over. Now, back to the countdown! While drinking the cider, I struck up a conversation with Martina, a Dublin native who was in Killarney with her boyfriend and his mates; they were playing pool (aka billiards, not snooker) while Martina watched. Cheesy, Hi-NRG Eurodisco boomed from the bar’s sound system. The crowd’s attire nestled perfectly in the gap between “preppy watering hole” and “sleazy, dark nightclub;” the men’s clothing ran just a little on the tight side, while the women’s outfits were tighter still. Both men and women doused themselves with various scents to the point that even I felt it was overbearing.

During our discussion, I found out that Martina’s father is a Garda (that is to say, he’s a police officer in Ireland). Since my own father is a police officer, we had reason to talk shop for a while. I commented on how small some of the Garda stations were in the various town we had driven through so far; I think I even threw in a comparison to a TARDIS. From that point, our conversation ranged quite far and wide, as Martina and I talked about various things from cop shifts to drugs to music--apparently, Shane McGowan was touring at that time, a fact that we both marveled at as that meant Shane was among the living--to the Irish economy to the growing problem of US-style sprawl in Ireland, and finally to accents. I hadn’t noticed that much of a difference in regional accents during my trip, but Martina said that within a couple of seconds of speaking, nearly everyone in Killarney knew that she’s a Dubliner. Most of the people in Killarney come from Counties Cork or Kerry, as Dubliners were increasingly keen to hop RyanAir so they could head to other parts of the European Union. Occasionally, Martina’s boyfriend would show up to snog with her, and he’d join in a bit on our conversation. He didn’t seem to bear any hostility toward this Yank that was chatting up his woman...or if he did, he certainly disguised it well!

Time passed by as Martina and I chatted, and soon enough, the clock was striking its closing time at 01:00. Above McSorley’s was a nightclub that stayed open until 03:00; this bit of news explained a lot about the attire of the people in the pub. Martina, her boyfriend, and his friends were set to head upstairs, but I wanted to get some rest before heading out onto the Ring of Kerry tour. Everyone responded back that I would be wise to do that; Martina had just taken a tour of the Ring a day ago and voiced her love of the sights. The consensus was that the Ring was a real treasure that is worth seeing and more than matches anything written about it in tour guides. With that knowledge in mind, I wandered back to the hotel to find that my parents were, in fact, still holding court with Brendan and Paddy. Now I mean this with all respect, but if I were to describe Paddy as a jolly, heavy-set Irishman, your mental picture would match up almost exactly with how he really looked. Think of W.C. Fields in less-formal clothing, yet still wearing a tam o’shanter. Paddy was pleased to hear that I spent time at the Speakeasy (or, in his words, “the Speak”), though the next day, I believe Maureen told me that Paddy looked to be the kind of guy who could enjoy himself at any pub he found himself at. I’d have to agree, as Paddy was noted for putting away the Guinness pints as if he were drinking water, a fact that brought expressions of amazement to my parents’ faces. I stumbled up the stairs to my hotel room to find that Ryan was still awake and reading a book in the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever series. A few minutes of me babbling at him followed my entrance into the room, then sleep followed shortly thereafter.


The next night, 21 July, I got going around 21:00 after spending some time repacking the suitcase for tomorrow’s departure to the Twomey/McCarthy homesteads. When I reached the main drag in Killarney, I followed yesterday’s pattern of checking out various pubs, then settled upon O’Meara’s. In the back section, I happened to catch some animated people sitting in a booth while listening to a blues/rockabilly band playing--yep, it was Martina, her boyfriend, and his friends again. The front section was showing MTV-UK programs covering the summer holidays at Ibiza or Ayia Napa. I talked with Martina and the crew, then spent some time bouncing back and forth between the two sections. During my wanderings, I happened upon a group of young women that were staying at the hostel in Killarney, so as is my wont, I introduced myself and talked with them for a while: Marielle was a touring American of Korean descent (perhaps living in Atlanta?); Alex was a stout Swiss woman with curly ginger hair (most likely Swiss German); Shawna was a very tanned woman hailing from the not-so-sunny climate of Halifax, Nova Scotia; and last but not least, Mary Fitzgerald, a Killarney local that worked at the youth hostel in Killarney, and who served as this group’s unofficial shepherd. Mary was 25 (at this time, I was only four years older), engaged, and as I wrote ten years ago, “exceptionally friendly and chatty.” I’d have to say that if one works at a hostel, one would have to be outgoing, cheerful, and willing to expose oneself to people of vastly different cultures and backgrounds from your own. From what I can remember, Mary had those traits covered.

There were other women with the aforementioned, but my written and current memories didn't capture anything about them apart from their presence. Mary invited me to come along with her, Shawna, and Alex to The Laurels, which was my first and only time on this tour that I sought out and enjoyed traditional Irish sing-a-longs. Yes, there were sing-a-longs at The Abbey during my first night on the tour, but there were crucial differences at The Laurels that made this particular experience better for me. For starters, the crowd at The Laurels was young and Irish, while at the Abbey, the audience was older and largely Irish-American. The band at The Abbey was all too happy to play to stereotypes and to play what they expected their audience to know and appreciate (minus the murder ballads, of course), whereas the band at The Laurels picked songs that were wide-ranging in topics, from sea shanties to murder ballads to Pogues covers. There was a strong vibe between the band and the crowd at The Laurels--the booze helps, of course--that was totally absent at The Abbey. So yeah, it wasn’t something I’d normally seek out in the US, but for that particular evening, the setting and the music worked for me.

At midnight, The Laurels closed. I had been pacing myself quite well at both pubs--a pint of Carlsburg and a pint of Bulmer’s at O’Meara’s, and a pint of undisclosed (in my diary) substance at The Laurels. Prices were in the same range as at McSorely’s the night before. Feeling good, and still in the mood to stay out longer, the group I was with headed to the Danny Man for more of the same. I had one last pint of Bulmer’s cider at the Danny Mann; its consumption was accompanied by Mary warning her hostel group to watch out for drunken marriage proposals near closing time, followed up by her warning me about “wild Kerry women.” Oh. Mary also had to give me some grief about my future travel plans, as Kerry and Cork have a strong yet friendly rivalry in sport that colors many relations between the two counties. As mentioned in a later diary entry, I did notice the red-and-green flags flying outside all Killarney bars while wandering around the streets at night.

One hour later, the Danny Mann closed with everyone in the bar singing the Irish national anthem. I bid Shawna and Alex good night, then walked with Mary to a corner where she was going to spend the remainder of the night at a locals-only bar that stays open until 04:00. Apparently, I must have been feeling pretty good during my departure, as I wrote down that I “called Mary a charming and beautiful woman” and how her significant other is quite lucky to have her in his life. She wished me luck on the rest of the trip, even if it meant going to Cork(!), and walked into some smoky-filled pub to meet with her friends. I wandered back to my hotel room, and passed out around 01:30. The seven or eight hours of sleep I had that night must not have been enough, as I woke up ready to head toward County Cork with the feeling that all of Killarney was clog-dancing on my forehead...but you know what? Looking back, ten years later, these two nights were totally worth the temporary discomfort on the morning of 22 July. The pain from a hangover fades with aspirin and nourishment, while the memories of those two nights are my personal experiences from the Ireland tour that I'll keep with me always.

24 July 2001, 09:00

  • boring night in Cork last night; went to one bar (Gallagher’s; no watermelons were smashed) and had a pint of Beamish (not as bitter as Guinness but not as sweet as Murphy’s). The pint was £2.30, and remember, a “pint” in Ireland and England still uses the imperial measurement, so instead of 16 ounces, it’s 20.
  • prior to dinner, I wandered around a lot in Cork--saw St. Finbarre’s Cathedral and the Beamish brewery (no tours that I can recall), ate curry chips, bought a Cork Gaelic football jersey, and found a liquor store on St. Patrick’s Street to purchase Black Bush and Powers. Cork isn’t so great at Gaelic football, but they are historically dominant in hurling.
  • I shouldn't have had the curry chips, as dinner was a painful affair--I enjoyed the Clonakilty black pudding, especially with a raspberry-like relish sauce, and the lamb was especially tender, but my stomach was on the F.
  • after Gallagher’s, I returned back to the room, packed again, watched BBC News at 10 and “Caribbean Uncovered” on Sky One.
  • woke up at 07:00, prepped while watching MTV’s UK feed covering summer holidays in Ibiza (their equivalent of the US MTV’s Spring Break)
  • MUST FIND DUCT TAPE BEFORE FLYING OUT OF AIRPORT! Oh yeah, my suitcase problems.
  • COBH (outskirts) - CARRIGTOHILL - MIDLETON (main distillery of Jamestown; you can smell the whiskey in the air) - CASTLEMARTYR - KILLEAGH - YOUGHAL (Clock Gate Tower in center of street; Sir Walter Raleigh was mayor of Youghal shortly before and after his New World adventures) - KINSALEBEG - GRANGE - DUNGARVAN - THE PIKE - LEMYBRIEN - KIMATCTHOMAS (outskirts) - ADAMSTOWN - KILMEADEN - WATERFORD (crystal factory, town, shop & lunch). Kinsalebeg starts Couny Waterford. Adamstown was in County Wexford, but Kilmeaden and Waterford are in Waterford.

24 July 2001, 13:30

  • finally leaving Waterford Crystal plant and shop
  • original plan was to leave at 12:30, but family wanted to shop for an additional hour
  • ate lunch at the Waterford Crystal deli: chicken sandwich w/chocolate covered Rice Krispies bar. Slim pickings, if I remember correctly.
  • the tour and demonstration of the engraving were interesting, but the shopping bored me immensely. Once you see one expensive crystal that you can’t afford, seeing 3345 similar crystals does little to change one’s mind.
  • because of the extra hour of shopping, we’re skipping a scenic route so we can make it back to Dublin faster. If I were the tour dictator, I would have traded the hour of shopping in for a scenic route, as I could buy Waterford Crystals in the US, but the Irish scenery stays in Ireland.

11A_0251: Waterford Crystal

12A_0252: Waterford Crystal

14A_0254: Waterford Crystal

17A_0257: Waterford Crystal

22A_0262: Waterford Crystal

  • MULLINAVAT - LUKESWELL - BALLYHALE - THOMASTOWN (Jerpoint Abbey) - GOWRAN - PAULSTOWN - LEIGHLINBRIDGE (outskirts) - CARLOW - CASTLEDERMOT - BALTINGLASS - STRAFFORD-ON-SLANEY (outskirts) - HOLLYWOOD (outskirts; a much-needed bathroom and ice cream break). OK, pay attention. Mullinavat starts our time in County Kilkenny; no, I didn’t see any kids wearing orange parkas with its hoods covering most of their faces. Leighlinbridge and Carlow were in County Carlow. Castledermont was the only town we drove through in County Kildare. Baltinglass starts our time in County Wicklow (home of the mountain range that’s visible from tall buildings in Dublin).

24 July 2001, 16:00

  •  leaving Hollywood after stopping at a tiny snack shop that had ice cream and a one-seater bathroom with no lighting.
  • we pretty much cleared out the store of its supply of Magnum bars and candy. For the record, Starburst’s flavors in Ireland and England are lemon/lime, strawberry, orange...and a nasty blackcurrant.

__5_0268: Hollywood!

  • off to St. Kevin’s shrine in LARAGH via the Vale of Glendalough
  • passed some set for a film; unsure if it’s a cinema film or one made-for-TV
  • LARAGH (St. Kevin’s church and graveyard). St. Kevin is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Dublin, of Glendalough (the glacial valley in Laragh that’s home to the ruins), and of blackbirds.

24 July 2001, 17:05

  • St. Kevin’s ruins turned out to be one of the better photo opportunities. I saw a couple people practicing their hurling, and I really liked how the pictures of the ruins turned out.

__6_0269: St. Kevin's in Glendalough

__7_0270: St. Kevin's in Laragh

__8_0271-2: St. Kevin's in Laragh

  • LARAGH - ANNAMOE - ROUNDWOOD - Sugar Loaf Mountain (501 meters, or 1644 feet--it’s classified in the British Isles as a “Marilyn” as its relative height is over 150 meters; in Scotland, a Munro is a mountain over 3000 feet) - KILMACANOGUE - BRAY (outskirts) - ENNISKERRY - CHANTILLY - DUBLIN. Chantilly and Dublin are in the (former) County Dublin; everything else is County Wicklow.

_10_0273: Wicklow Mountains

  • arrived at Jury’s, where it all started, at 18:00; checkout and departure for Dublin Airport is at 12:00 tomorrow.

25 July 2001, 11:40

  •  in lobby of Jury’s awaiting ride to Dublin Airport
  • last night in Dublin: wandered around, saw a new MG roadster, found an old-style fish & chips stand, Beshoff’s, founded by a Russian immigrant to Ireland nearly 100 years ago--fish & chips still wrapped as a unit in newsprint.

_11_0274: Dublin

_13_0276: Dublin

  • naturally, I didn’t order the fish & chips; instead, it was a chicken burger. I was very much on a chicken kick at that point in my life. Most of my fish exposure at that point in my life was courtesy of frozen fish sticks, so I was reluctant to try the actual product in a place where it was caught fresh daily. Nowadays, I’d smack the younger me for being so, um, chicken about eating fish.
  • yet another example of the “large” Pepsi being much smaller than what is normal in the US--their “large” was 0.4 liters (400 mL, or 13.5 ounces), which would most likely be a small in the US.

_16_0279: Dublin

  • wandered to Temple Bar district; visited five bars. Due to time constraints, I put aside Ashley’s advice that she gave me when the family was at Abbey Pub. Had I more time, I would have gone to the Christchurch district as she recommended.

_17_0280: Dublin

  • Drank in two of the pubs: Porterhouse and Oliver’s; went into three other pubs--Temple Bar, Front Bar, and briefly into Left Bank--to look around at the crowds.
  • had one pint of Scrumpy Jack hard cider, which I liked; also had Kilkenny Irish ale, a red ale with the body of Guinness but with the bitter taste of Bass--I didn’t like it. I’d be willing to try it again, as I’ve grown more accustomed to the bitterness of pale ales.
  • prices ranged from £2.80 to £3.05--Cork won for the cheapest beer, while Killarney wasn’t too far behind.
  • at Porterhouse, a guy with a guitar was leading the crowd to a sing-along of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” which amused me greatly as it’s not a happy-go-lucky sing-along song.
  • Porterhouse was the best-looking bar of the bunch: multi-storey, tons of wood, tin ceiling, and its own microbrewery.

_20_0283: Dublin

  • Cab ride home was courtesy of a Toyota Avensis, which is like the Toyota Camry, only more boring & nondescript. It was a £5 ride from Temple Bar to Jury’s.
  • made it in by 23:00; watched some Celtic Giants strongman competition and passed out.

25 July 2001, 16:55 Central Daylight Time

  • flying over Michigan near Grand Rapids as I write this; I’m about 30 minutes from landing at O’Hare.
  • everyone went nuts at Dublin Airport, what with running around for VAT credit and cramming down a lunch before takeoff
  • the flight back has been unmemorable; flew near southern tip of Greenland, but the cloud cover prevented me from seeing this part of Denmark from the air
  • I did see the coastline of Labrador as we flew over it--this would be a good adventure vacation. Yeah, if you like getting away from it all, sure...
  • sat next to elderly British woman; we switched seats so that I was on the aisle and that she could lean against the window and rest
  • read URB and today’s Guardian, as well as articles from URChicago and Loaded (the UK edition).
  • luggage situation: my other bag was heavily taped and placed in a big wrap, which itself was taped up. I hope this works. It did, but the Ireland trip was the last one for my suitcase. My camera also barely survived Ireland.
  • also bought a sample (50 mL) of Emporio Armani He courtesy of the SkyMall. Yep, for this trip, I was that guy who buys stuff on the plane.
  • while I enjoyed the vacation, it was just long enough for me and I was happy to be seeing the Chicago skyline upon landing. More thoughts in a separate post entitled “What We’ve Learned.”

23 July 2001, 10:10

  • waiting on bus in hotel lobby to go to COBH and BLARNEY
  • short day today; lots of time to explore Cork. This was unfortunate, as Cork...well, let’s be fair. Cork is not a pretty city. It’s definitely the second city of Ireland, but like its neighboring island, the second city of England (be it Manchester or Birmingham or Liverpool) has a definite chip on its shoulder.

__1A_0217: Cork

__2_0221: Cork

__4_0219: Cork

  • the Gresham Metropole is a nice old hotel that’s over 100 years old--lovely big-ceiling rooms and gorgeous bathrooms with REAL water pressure. It looks like I had issues with the low-flow faucets at other hotels.

__8_0223: Cork

  • yesterday’s dinner was chicken in some sauce, saffron rice, cream of vegetable soup, and apple pie.
  • I gave going out on the town a pass last night; instead, watched BBC News at 10, followed up by track & field at the British Grand Prix on BBC2, and two programs on Sky One (”Reps at Ibiza”--a Real World knock-off, and “Naked in Westminster” about strippers who work near Buckingham Palace). What, a Murdoch-owned media organization playing around with class conflict and tawdry programming? I never!
  • fell asleep at midnight; woke up at 08:00--no wake-up call again.
  • good breakfast of bacon & eggs & cereal w/tea
  • heading to Cobh Heritage Center to see story about the Irish diaspora
  • someone may have shot a pellet gun into a hotel window; the hotel is investigating. Such hooliganism squares away with some of what I saw during my walk around Cork later on this day, including the skinhead who had his head wound tended to near the Nationalist Monument. Again, Cork = not a pretty city.

__3_0220: Cork

__5_0218: Cork

  • COBH (formerly known as Queenstown; industrial port that’s home to the Irish Navy and was last port of call for both the Lusitania and the Titanic)
  • at Cobh Heritage Center until 11:40; both William Twomey and Eileen McCarthy left from this port in the 1920s to emigrate to the US

__9_0222: Cobh

_11_0227: Cobh

  • COBH - BLARNEY (Blarney Castle)

23 July 2001, 15:40

  • leaving Blarney Castle to head back to Cork
  • my father, instead of kissing the Blarney Stone, head-butted it. He’ll now have the gift of gab, but only in his head.
  • talked with a young couple on tour from New Zealand and had a good time with them

_0A_0240: Blarney Castle

_3A_0243: Blarney Castle

_9A_0249: Blarney Castle

  • saw a tourist group from Trinity Bible College in Deerfield, IL acting like idiots (ugly Americans?)
  • bought Alison a bronze plaque with a Gaelic saying on it. I didn't write down what that saying was.
  • all that’s left for gifts is to buy booze for Nick--I can declare up to one liter
  • dropped off stuff in room prior to walking around Cork--dinner is at 19:00, so I have some time to kill
  • tomorrow is our last full day in Ireland; will make the trek back to Dublin at 09:00

22 July 2001, 10:15

  • somewhat hung over this morning--will do Killarney night #2 later. See above note for “Two Nights In Killarney.” Yeah, I really did myself no favors the night beforehand. The breakfast didn't settle too well this morning, so let's just say that there was a lot of room in my stomach come lunchtime. Nobody noticed, as many people experienced motion sickness while riding in the tour bus--if anyone had asked why I looked pale and haggard, I had a convenient cover story at the ready.
  • today was the big day to see the origins of Maurice's mother and father--everything else was a prelude to what was about to happen.
  • KILLARNEY - BARRADUFF - RATHMORE - DROMAGH - KANTURK - NEWMARKET (McCarthy side) - MEELIN (McCarthy baptismal church and homestead). After Rathmore, we’re in Ireland’s largest county, County Cork.

_1A_0193: Meelin, County Cork

_2A_0194: Meelin, County Cork

_3A_0195: Meelin, County Cork

_6A_0198: Meelin, County Cork

22 July 2001, 12:45

  • retreat from Meelin back to Kanturk
  • MALLOW - CASTLETOWNROCHE - BALLYHOOLY - FERMOY (outskirts; home of James Joyce’s father) - CLONDULANE (Twomey side, homestead and small pub that opened on Sunday for us)
  • Lots of pictures, booze, and geared-up fans watching the Gaelic football match between Cork and Galway.

22 July 2001, 17:25

  • spent a lot of time talking and eating and watching the all-Ireland Gaelic football championship--Galway beat Cork, while Dublin hosted Sligo. All-Ireland really means “all-Ireland,” as the traditional county structure abandoned by the British in Northern Ireland is still used for the six teams that compete in the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
  • the pub, O’Daugherty’s Sports Bar, naturally cheered for Cork, who started off slow in the first half but mounted a comeback in the second half that fell short. I later found out that the night before, Cork played and lost to their main rival, Kerry, which explained all of the red-and-green banners hanging throughout Killarney.

_7A_0199: Clondulane, County Cork

_9A_0201: Clondulane, County Cork

12A_0204: Clondulane, County Cork

  • after the game, lunch was served--chicken, sausages, black pudding, cold sandwiches, and curry sauce on the side. Here’s where I first tried, and really liked, black pudding. The funny thing is, one of the famous purveyors of black pudding throughout Ireland is one Edward Twomey, the late proprietor of a butcher’s shop in Clonakilty who managed to spread the fame of his black pudding throughout Ireland and beyond. You’d think that, with a last name like Twomey, other people on the trip would be willing to try black pudding...nope. Didn’t happen, except for me.
  • a large family gathering was captured on film, followed by a stroll down Mill Road to see the old Twomey household--tiny place!

18A_0210: Clondulane, County Cork

19A_0211: Clondulane, County Cork

22A_0214: Clondulane, County Cork

  • now heading to CORK--lots of construction and hills; the city really sprawls in comparison to other places (save Dublin) I’ve seen on the tour so far
  • Cork is home to Murphy’s and Beamish; two non-Guinness Irish stouts. Heineken brews its beers here for distribution on the island. The brewery is on the shoreline of the River Lee. After the visit, Heineken bought out Murphy’s and Beamish, but kept the brewery in Cork.
  • staying at the Metropole Hotel in downtown Cork.

21 July 2001, 11:00

  • Ring of Kerry tour today. Another highlight of the trip. This will be a picture-heavy post, so rejoice.
  • Yesterday’s highlight in Killarney was a carriage ride through adjacent Killarney National Park (Lough Lein, old thatched-roof cottages, etc.). Killarney is the “Irish Riviera,” and explodes in the summertime as a popular vacation destination. Think of all the New Yorkers who would go to the Catskills or the Poconos, and you’ve got the idea for Killarney. The town has roughly 13,000 people, and as of my visit, over 40 pubs--even by Irish standards, that’s a lot. In the summer, Killarney’s population increases “significantly,” as only Dublin has more hotel beds in all of Ireland than Killarney.
  • LOTS to say about last night in Killarney--will do so later. In fact, “Two Nights In Killarney” will be posted after my last diary entry from 25 July 2001. There are no photos associated with the nights out in Killarney, but my memories should paint a vivid picture in your mind
  • KILLORGLIN (home of the Puck Fair in August) - Caragh Valley (picture time!) - GLENBEIGH - Knockboy Mountain - FEAKLECALLY (past the bridge photo of Dingle Bay) - Shepherding display near Kells Bay - CAHERSIVEEN (home of Irish nationalist Daniel O’Connell) - WATERVILLE (home of a Charlie Chaplin statue, as Waterville was one of his favorite vacation spots)

---_0167: Shepherding display #2

---_0171-Edit: Dingle Bay

---_0172: Himself

---_0173: Dingle Bay shores

21 July 2001, 14:05

  • lunch at the Scariff Inn outside of Caherdaniel (roughly the halfway point along the Ring Of Kerry, though the town of Sneem is often referred to as the "knot" on the ring)
  • photo opportunity at Coonakista Pass

_13_0157: Ring of Kerry

_14_0158: Scariff and Deenish Islands

_15_0159: Coomakista Pass portrait

_19_0163: Coomakista Pass portrait

_16_0160: Stone fort in Coomakista Pass

_17_0161: Coomakista Pass

  • CAHERDANIEL - CASTLECOVE - SNEEM (a favorite vacation spot of Charles de Gaulle) - PARKNASILLA - sheep traffic jam - KENMARE (Moll’s Gap) - back to Killarney National Park - MUCKROSS (Muckross Hotel) - KILLARNEY

_20_0164: Traffic jam on the Ring Of Kerry

  • dinner at 18:30

20 July 2001, 08:30

  • In lobby of Connemara Coast Hotel, waiting for family and today’s bus trip.
  • Plans are to head to the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Folk Castle, Limerick and Killarney. These plans changed because it was a...
  • ...wet & rainy day. Lots of outdoor sights, so it’ll be “fun.”
  • Dinner yesterday was at 19:30; ate garlic mushrooms, grilled salmon, and chocolate mousse. Since the chef at the hotel was local, he did not follow the Swedish Chef’s instructions for making chocolate mousse.
  • In the hotel bar, I ordered a Black Bush, and nobody gave me any gruff for it. For those not in the know, Bushmills is whiskey that is made in the province of Ulster, which makes up most of Northern Ireland. Jameson is distilled in southern Ireland, so thanks to The Troubles, Bushmills has the stereotype of being the “Protestant” whiskey, and Jameson has the stereotype of being the “Catholic” and “true Irish” whiskey. Not only am I not truly Irish, I don’t care much for the taste of Jameson--for my palate, Bushmills is the better whiskey.
  • After dinner, I investigated calling a cab so I could go into Galway and check out the Arts Festival that was happening. The Galway Arts Festival is a major event that happens in mid-July, so between the shows, the pubs, and the fact that Galway is a big university town, I figured that I’d finally meet people relatively close to my age and interests.
  • What happens? I was so tired, I fell asleep right after dinner. Galway remains The Mystery City on the Ireland tour, as it was so close to where we stayed, yet it may as well have been in Greenland given how little we spent time there. Only my cousin Samantha had the fortune of spending time in Galway during one college semester in 2007 (unfortunately, her time in Galway coincided with the passing of Maurice Twomey, as he succumbed to his decade-long fight against prostate cancer).

20 July 2001, 10:45

  • Headed back to Spiddal for more shopping; I stayed in the bus until 10 AM. The shopping was due to the change of plans caused by the rain.
  • GALWAY - ORNAMORE (skipping The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher due to the rain) - CLAIRINBRIDGE - KILCOLGAN - ARDRAHAN - GORT - CRUSHEEN - BAREFIELD - ENNIS - CLARECASTLE - NEWMARKET-ON-FERGUS - SHANNON (outskirts for Bunratty Castle). Crusheen started our time in County Clare.

20 July 2001, 15:15

  • A fun tour of Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. The castle, which dates to 1425, became an “Irish theme park” of sorts in the 1950s thanks to the development of nearby Shannon Airport.

21A_0142: The River Ratty

18A_0139: Shannon Heritage

19A_0140: Bunratty Castle

23A_0144: Bunratty Castle

  • Ate my very first Magnum bar--puts Dove bars to shame. Also at the Folk Park was Hazelbrook House, the original home of the ice-cream making Hughes Brothers (now part of Unilever's Heartbrand, so you’ve most likely seen this logo at some point while eating ice cream). Magnum has finally been introduced in the US as of this year, so you will be able to see what the fuss is all about.

__5_0149: Hazelbrook House

  • Bought perfect postcard for Julie--muahahahahaha! It’s actually the perfect postcard for anyone who has lived in Palatine, IL.

20A_0141: The original Durty Nelly's?

  • CRATLOE (outskirts) - LIMERICK (drove through--didn’t have enough time to even come up with something to rhyme with Nantucket) - PATRICKSWELL - ADARE (lots of abbeys; site of our “comfort stop”). Limerick started our time in County Limerick.

__7_0151: Limerick

20 July 2001, 16:50

  • RATHKEALE (home of a fair amount of Irish Travellers; no, I did not see Brad Pitt in a boxing match) - NEWCASTLE WEST - MEENVILLE SOUTH - TULLIGOLINE - ABBEYFEALE - CASTLEISLAND (overhill shot of valley by Muinganear Mountains and Glenaruddery Mountains) - FARRENFORE - COOLCORCORAN - KILLARNEY. Starting in Castleisland, it’s County Kerry time.

_12_0156: Castleisland, County Kerry

_11_0155: Castleisland, County Kerry

19 July 2001, 11:20

  • I was about to go on a rant about how yesterday was the second time on this tour where I decided that I never want to take a family or package tour again (the first being at that awful Abbey Pub), but things have changed today.
  • While bathing this morning prior to breakfast, Rosemary fell in the shower and broke her arm. We’re off to Galway, but not for sight-seeing; instead, we’re going to the hospital. The bathrooms in our rooms at the Connemara Coast were, as of 2001, a strange mix of American and what I’d call “European” plumbing styles. There were toilets and bidets. The bathtub appeared to have been a claw-foot tub at one point, yet its exterior was enclosed in plywood and its base was elevated off the ground--to get in the tub, you had to lift your leg over and up quite high. Leaving the tub was tricky, as you had to lift your leg over the tub and land on a bathroom floor lower than where you were standing in the tub. Oh, the shower head? It was in the middle of the tub, and not at an end. I believe it was this awkward combination of plumbing and the tub enclosure that led to Rosemary’s confusion during her shower.
  • After going to the hospital, we changed our schedule a bit and decided to visit Rathbaun Farm.

 19 July 2001, 14:30

  • Back from the farm; nice people, good food, smart dog, dumb sheep. I’m glad I ate a small breakfast.

21A_0117: Rathbaun Farm

22A_0118: Rathbaun Farm

19A_0115: Rathbaun Farm

_1A_0122: Rathbaun Farm

  • Saw sheepdog in action herding the flock--should see if we could get Souka some brains. Souka was our family’s lovable, yet somewhat overweight and dumb yellow Lab. She failed out of obedience school when she crapped on the floor of the classroom, and was asked not to return. Labs are either intelligent and well-trained, or friendly and not too smart. Souka was very much in the latter category.

_4A_0125: Rathbaun Farm


  • Drove back to Galway to see if we could see Rosemary at the hospital--we were able to pick her up. Her arm was definitely broken, and she also suffered from a bruised rib. Apart from the hospital, the only other major stop that happened in town was at the Galway Cathedral. The Cathedral was dedicated in 1965, yet manages to look as if it had been around for at least one hundred years prior. I was much more impressed by its architecture than what I had seen at Knock. The German tourist bus--yes, the same one that we saw back in Dublin at St. Patrick’s Cathedral--was equally impressed. Speaking of Germans, the hotels we stayed at all carried German TV stations along with Irish networks (in English and Irish), as well as the BBC and Sky. I think it was in Galway that Ryan and I tried watching some programs on the Irish station, TG4, including a hurling match. Ryan gave up after 10 minutes, saying that the Irish language “hurt his head” (and this is coming from someone who taught himself Russian).

11A_0132: Galway Cathedral

12A_0133: Galway Cathedral

1 Comment

18 July 2001, 09:20

  • Downhill House Hotel--VERY CONFUSING & QUIRKY. Lots of stairs and nearly hidden passageways.
  • Bathroom was rather strange; the mini-shower curtain was rather pointless as water soaked the floor of the bathroom. Once outside of Dublin, we all discovered how haphazard plumbing arrangements were in our hotels. Many shower units looked as if they were a late addition, slapped into the bathing area as an afterthought. Such unusual bathroom arrangements sadly came to the forefront the next day...
  • Dinner was OK. Pork chops with applesauce, consomme w/sherry & baked Alaska. Peter Brady would have approved of this meal.
  • Ryan got to rattle off in Spanish with our waiter, who was originally from the Canary Islands. Later on, Ryan said his accent sounded similar to how Cubans speak Spanish, but at first he had difficulty understanding him in his native language. I refrained from making Manuel references, as they would have been totally inappropriate--after all, the waiter was NOT from Barcelona.
  • I hit the sauna, located in a very hard-to-find part of the hotel; it tired me out quite well so that watching Alien on Sky One didn’t keep me awake.
  • Fell asleep again at midnight; woke up at 7 AM for preparation and breakfast.
  • Left at 9:40 after taking family pictures in front of monkey tree. It’s also known as the Monkey-puzzle Tree or Monkey Tail Tree, and is a popular decorative tree that originally comes from central and southern Chile. As for the family pictures, we stood with our backs to the tree and our faces to the sun, which is why I’m not posting any pictures (except for my grandfather) of that as we all are far too squinty-eyed to look good.

12A_0084: My grandfather

  • BALLINA - parallel River Moy and Ox Mountains - FOXFORD - SWINFORD - KILTIMAGH (the English name was blacked out on the road signs leading to the town, with only its Irish name of Coillte Mách being displayed) - KNOCK.

18 July 2001, 11:30

  • Leaving Knock, not as bad as I thought it would be. Knock is a small village in County Mayo where, on 21 August 1879, numerous villagers claimed to have seen, inside their village churck, an apparition of Mary, Joseph, and John surrounding a small altar upon which a lamb and crucifix had been placed. Since the publicity of this sighting, Knock has become a pilgrimage destination for the Catholic faithful. A larger basilica was built in 1967 (and, to my eyes, definitely suffers from its Sixties Modern/Brutalist design) to allow the failthful to worship. Pope John Paul II visited Knock during his Ireland trip of 1979, and due to his own popularity, demand to travel to Knock increased to the point where the church’s monsignor prevailed upon the Irish government to fund construction of a international airport nearby. My “not bad” comment in 2001 was based upon fears that the Knock Shrine would be a ticky-tacky affair, and while I was unimpressed with the basilica, the overall grounds were pleasant enough.

---_0088: Knock

---_0087: Knock Shrine

---_0091: Knock Shrine

  • New batteries and film acquired in Knock for the camera. It was actually at Knock that my camera started developing problems with its shutter. I managed to keep it working through the remainder of the trip, but Knock marked the official beginning of the end for my film camera. Its future replacement was a Hewlett-Packard C215 digital camera--my first foray into a non-film world.
  • CLAREMORRIS - HOLLYMOUNT - BALLINROBE - THE NEALE - CONG (home of Ashford Castle, which we saw far off in the distance; sadly, there is no Simpson Castle)

18 July 2001, 13:40

  • Lunch in Cong, then ran around the tiny town. “The Quiet Man” was filmed in Cong, and as would be expected, nearly every store and hotel has some relation--real or imagined--to this film.
  • CLONBUR (between Lough Mask to its north and Lough Corrib to its south) - CORNAMONA (or Corr na Móna, as we were officially in a Gaeltacht, or Irish-speaking, part of Ireland often referred to as the Connemara) - CLAGGAN - MAAM - KILMEELICKIN - LEENAUN (along the shores of an Irish fjord, Killary Harbour) - DERRYNACLEIGH - KYLEMORE HOUSE (Kylemore Abbey). Everything after Cong is in County Galway; Cong itself is on the border of Mayo and Galway. Kilmeelickin gets the award for best town name encountered during the Ireland tour.

_0A_0096: Connemara through a bus window

_1A_0097: Killary Fjord

18 July 2001, 15:45

  • Great scenery at Kylemore Abbey. It was one of the highlights of the trip, as the landscaping and terrain were amazing, though the abbey and its small, yet intricately-detailed chapel on the abbey grounds, more than held their own against their natural surroundings.

_2A_0098: Kylemore Abbey

_5A_0101: Chapel at Kylemore Abbey

_6A_0102: Chapel at Kylemore Abbey

_7A_0103: Chapel at Kylemore Abbey

  • backtrack through MAAM - MAAM CROSS - COSTELLOE - BALLYNAHOWN - INVERIN - BALLINTEEMORE - SALAHOONA - SPIDDAL (craft shop) - FURBO (Connemara Coast Hotel). The town of Spiddal is referred to simply as An Spidéal, as the bilingual road signs in most of Ireland don’t exist here; they’re all in Irish. Along our backtrack drive, and south of Maam Cross toward the coast, we would occasionally see young kids in their teens hanging out by the roadside, waving to us as we passed on by. Jim, our driver, explained that there are Irish summer colleges that offer 13-week immersion programs for students to live in the Gaeltacht with Irish-speaking families so as to increase their own knowledge of the Irish language and traditional culture. I also remember seeing strange cuts in the fields, which were explained by Jim as residents cutting up peat turf to cure them in the summer sun. Peat would be the only heating fuel available in some parts of the Connemara.

10A_0106: Galway Bay

  • Dinner at 19:00

18 July 2001, 23:55

  • BORED! This has to be a joke where I’m making fun of my brother Sean’s diary entries, in which he wrote constantly of his boredom on the trip and how he’d rather be back in the Chicagoland area playing video games.
  • Very good dinner at Connemara Coast Hotel: chicken consomme, chicken in a marmalade sauce, toffee pudding with butterscotch topping. I’m sure there were vegetables and potatoes, but they must not have struck my fancy or have been otherwise memorable.
  • Walked along coast of Galway Bay in back of hotel, then tried to find something else to do. The pool and sauna were closed in the hotel, so I called both Nick and Alison at 22:30 to say hello from Ireland. The sun sets exceptionally late, by my Midwestern standards, during July. The below pictures were taken around 21:20, with the sun only reaching its "golden hour" just prior to sunset.

17A_0113: Mackenzie on the shoreline

18A_0114: Galway Bay sunset

  • I thought about walking to a bar I saw while on the drive here--it was too far away, and it most likely would be closing at 23:00. Additionally, now that I look back, it may have been a pub where English wasn’t spoken.
  • Watched end of Kundun on RTE1 (the Irish BBC), then went out to lobby to write out and mail some postcards.
  • Nothing to do on the 19th until 11:30; we’ll go to Galway, then see a farm demonstration at 16:00, then back through Galway with dinner at 19:00.
  • The Aran Islands hovered off in the distance in Galway Bay. No visit would take place, nor would I have any time for solo trekking. I was feeling a bit constrained at this point of the tour, as I was too old for most of my cousins, yet too young for the aunts and uncles. I pretty much had to make my own entertainment, and as of this writing, I was not having much luck with options. Events were soon to happen that would change my mood...

17 July 2001, 08:30

  •  I’m writing again in the lobby of Jury’s hotel for today’s trip to Sligo and Ballina.
  • Yesterday (July 16) was busy--did lots of walking in Dublin, including a pre-morning stroll by myself as I woke up really early.

_8A_0032: Merrion Road at sunrise

12A_0036: Merrion Road heading north into the city center

  • Started out with a bus tour went around the Ballsbridge neighborhood, then onto the Georgian section of Dublin. Unsure if the Georgian part was part of a neighborhood, or split among neighborhoods. I was more confused by the changing street names along the main road we traveled upon.
  • Drove along O’Connell Street where I saw old statues and heard the story of the 1916 Easter uprising at the General Post Office--shrapnel still visible in exterior columns.
  • First major stop was at Trinity College, which houses the Book of Kells and the Long Room in its library--no photos could be taken. I’ve seen pictures online taken by tourists, so the no-photography rule may have changed with regards to the Long Room.

13A_0037: Campus of Trinity College

  • Was more impressed by the Long Room, which held old manuscripts by Martin Luther (a fact that made the German tour group behind us quite happy), a Gutenberg Bible, and a very old harp--known as Brian Boru’s Harp, and is the basis for the harp used as a symbol of Ireland. The first half of the trip saw our tour bus "shadowed" by a much larger tour bus chartered by vacationing Germans.
  • Book of Kells had nice artwork, but I wasn’t too impressed by it.
  • After Trinity College came St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with lots to see there--big display on Jonathan Swift, old stones used by Saint Patrick to convert the “heathens,” stories about the other big people of the church, such as St. Bridget, and of the island.

24A_0048: St. Patrick's Cathedral

18A_0042: St. Patrick's Cathedral

15A_0039: St. Patrick's Cathedral

  • A big name on the island was Douglas Hyde, who was Ireland’s first president and also a strong proponent of reviving Irish Gaelic as a spoken and written language.
  • After St. Patrick’s, we went back to Trinity College to get dropped off--I got off of the bus with Kevin & Jane, Mike & Heidi, Erin, Kelly, and Samantha. We all walked to Grafton Street and nearly got swept back by the sheer number of people--think of a skinny, brick-paved Michigan Avenue in Chicago, though with a very young (under 30) crowd.

_1A_0050: Grafton Street

_2A_0051: Grafton Street

  • We ate at a McDonald’s, where I noted the differences in the menu--McPork? Veggie Deluxe? Hot dogs? A Medium drink being the same size as a Small in the US? Hmmmm.
  • McDonald’s was crowded--tons of American tourists (of course), but I was able to pick out people from England, France, and South Africa...and of course, locals.
  • When I finished up, I felt a bit tired and hopped on a City Tour bus whose route would have eventually taken me to Merrion Square, a park about 1 km from the hotel.
  • Tour took me to the western part of Dublin and the Guinness Brewery.

_4A_0053: It's what you do when in Dublin

_9A_0058: Guinness Brewery tour

  • The tour at the brewery is self-guided and quite neat--when you’re finished, you end up at Gravity, a bar on the top of the old brewery that allows great views of Dublin, Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains, and so on.

10A_0059: Gravity (on top of the old Guinness Brewery)

  • In the gift shop, I bought a Gaelic version of the Guinness label for Aaron, and a rugby shirt for myself. After one wash of following the instructions on the label, the rugby shirt shrank to the point that I ended up giving it to Kate.
  • I got back on the City Tour bus--went to Phoenix Park on the northwest edge of Dublin, and saw the home of the Irish President. Áras an Uachtaráin is the official name of the home.

14A_0063: Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park

  • Also passed through the Smithfield neighborhood, home of the Jamestown distillery, but I didn’t go in. Besides, I’m more of a Bushmills fan, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone in Ireland that.
  • I got off the bus on O’Connell Street, then walked back to Grafton Street to stop into a newsstand--bought an issue of CAR, complete with an additional book of short stories written by Alexei Sayle, and two CD’s (Gorillaz self-titled debut, and "Rooty" by Basement Jaxx). If you know anything about Alexei Sayle, who has called himself the "world's first Marxist comedian," the idea of him writing for such a magazine is in and of itself hysterical.
  • Walked back to hotel, relaxed briefly, then showered and joined the immediate family, along with Patty & Patrick, to dine at a nearby Italian restaurant. I spotted a Cuban restaurant nearby, but my suggestion to try that out didn’t win.
  • We ate pizza with chicken & mushrooms. Corn was a pizza topping I had never seen before, but it’s apparently a popular topping in many parts of Western Europe.
  • Headed back to the hotel to repack belongings and watched some TV--saw a scary anti-drinking ad. British PIF’s (public information films) are notoriously intense.
  • Called it a night at midnight, woke up at 06:45, finished packing, got ready, and headed to the bus.

17 July 2001, 10:10

  • DUBLIN - DROGHEDA - NEWGRANGE (BOYLE VALLEY). Drogheda is in County Louth, and was as close as we ever came to the Northern Ireland border during our trip. Newgrange is in County Meath.
  • Toured Neolithic ruins in Newgrange and Knowth, though time permitted us only to see Knowth. The complex dates from 3100-2900 BC, with Newgrange having an alignment that allows light to shine inside its interior chambers during the Winter Solstice. Knowth apparently has an Equinox alignment.

18A_0067: Newgrange

19A_0068: Boyne Valley

  • Our tour guide was a teenaged girl who was very nervous, as she had an annoying tic of ending nearly every sentence with “You know?”

20A_0069: Knowth and our nervous tourist guide

_1A_0073: Knowth

  • SLANE (Slane Castle) - NAVAN (near Hill of Tara) - KELLS (original home of the Book of Kells) Still in County Meath.
  • Lunch in Kells.

17 July 2001, 13:30

  • Lunch was a very greasy burger and yummy curry chips at a local joint called Super Sam’s. And thus, my love affair with curry sauce officially began.
  • Bought today’s Irish Times and Irish Independent.
  • KELLS - CLONMELLON - DELVIN - MULLINGAR (outskirts) - bypass of Lough Owel - BALLINALACK - RATHOWEN - EDGEWORTHSTOWN -LONGFORD (in outskirts for Carriglass Manor) Starting with Clonmellon, we headed into County Westmeath; Edgeworthstown and Longford are in County Longford.

17 July 2001, 16:00

  • Leaving Carigglas Manor. Interesting tour...which I don’t remember much except for the building being cold and damp and musty.

_3A_0075: Carigglas Manor

_4A_0076: Carigglas Manor

  • NEWTONFORBES - ROOSKY - DROMOD - AGHAMORE - CARRICK-ON-SHANNON (bathroom break) Newtonforbes is still in County Longford; Roosky is barely in County Roscommon and is situated where Roscommon, Longford, and County Leitrim meet; Dromod starts up our time in Leitrim.

17 July 2001, 16:40

  • When in Carrick-On-Shannon, be sure to stop into the Landmark Hotel and use their bathroom as we did!

_5A_0077: Carrick-On-Shannon

  • BOYLE (outskirts, around Lough Key) - BALLINAFAD (outskirts, around Lough Arrow). Boyle was back in Roscommon, but once in Ballinafad, we were in County Sligo for quite some time.
  • Lots of little satellite dishes everywhere.
  • Mountains outside of Sligo still have patches of snow on them. These would be the Dauty and the Ox Mountains.
  • Drove past Lough Gill on way to DRUMCLIFFE (Ben Bulben, a mountain, is in the distance). Drumcliffe was the final resting place of William Butler Yeats, whose tombstone is engraved with words from his poem “Under Ben Bulben.” Drumcliffe marked the furthest north our tour would go; we were to head even further north to Donegal, but either the schedule wouldn’t allow this to happen, or it was vetoed during the planning stages--I can’t recall.

10A_0082: Ben Bulben

---_0081: Ben Bulben

---_0079: William Butler Yeats

17 July 2001, 18:00

  • Back to Sligo. It’s southward bound from here on out until Cork.
  • Very windy today with overcast skies (Sunday was sunnier and with temps in mid-upper 60s, Monday was same but with more wind and random sprinkles); temps today in upper 50s/low 60s. Keep in mind that this is July weather. Nobody goes to Ireland to work on their tan.
  • BALLYSADARE - DROMORE WEST (fell asleep while listening to Basement Jaxx, so I missed any towns in between there). How one falls asleep while listening to songs like “Romeo” is something I can’t explain.
  • Really cheesy Irish/New Age music was on the bus’ sound system--makes me want to slap someone.
  • This bus is really bouncy and the roads aren’t very smooth; put that together, and that’s why my handwriting is so bad. I started to call Ireland’s B-roads “paved-over suggestions” during this trip.
  • Arrived at the Downhill House Hotel in the outskirts of BALLINA at 19:05, with dinner at 20:00. Ballina is in County Mayo.

Ten years ago, my grandfather Maurice Twomey decided that in lieu of a big 70th birthday celebration, he wanted to take his five children and their children to Ireland in order to see the land from where his parents emigrated. I joined over 20 of my relatives, and armed with a Canon 35mm point-and-shoot and a diary, I documented the 11 days spent on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. From today until July 25, I'll be posting pictures (as seen in its entirety at this Flickr set) and diary entries from that trip--along with comments in italics on my diary entries--so ligean le dul!

14 July 2001, 18:45 Central Daylight Time

  • Left home 30 minutes late as limo thought we were in Elmwood Park, and not Elmhurst.
  • Family was spazzing out, with intensity of spazzing increasing with age save for me. Seriously, how does one make such a mistake? Yes, Elmwood Park and Elmhurst start the same, but even if you were to somehow confuse "-hurst" with "-wood," there's a significant difference between hearing a city with a one-word name and a city with a two-word name. We made it to the airport without too much of a delay, but it was more of an annoyance than anything else.
  • Nicole joked that she will run around the house naked once we’re all gone. Because we couldn't afford to board our lovable yet dumb Lab, Souka, we had to make sure she was properly cared for in our absence. Hotel Kasak was in full effect in 2001, as a spare bedroom was being used by my cousin Nicole during her adventures working for Fox 32 in Chicago. She was joking when she said that--we think.
  • Car is with Heinz family. (Family friends who lived a block away.)
  • Aer Lingus stewardesses are quite cute but they probably know that already. Surprise, surprise, there were many red-headed flight attendants working for the Irish national airline. Who could have predicted THAT?
  • Terminal 5 of ORD is nice and clean--saw British Midlands for the first time. It's a shame that, a few months after my Ireland trip, that big event happened which changed American airport security forever, as everyone who has had the misfortune of flying through O'Hare on a busy travel day should try to check out the International terminal. Because it's the newest of the four (yes, there's no Terminal 4, just like how there's no Interstate 95 in New Jersey) terminals, it managed to fix all of the problems that the domestic terminals had at the time of my flight. Instead of dirty, worn-out furniture in dimly lit wings, 2001's Terminal 5 was clean, bright, and well-maintained. Instead of poor signage and little assistance from employees, Terminal 5 had an abundance of signs in different languages with assistance almost bordering on annoyance. It's a shame that such an approach couldn't make its way throughout the rest of O'Hare...

15 July 2001, 06:40 Irish Standard Time

  • The ocean--vast, unrelenting, unforgiving--stretches as far as the eye can see.
  • No, wait, that’s the cloud cover; beneath THAT is the ocean--vast, unrelenting...
  • Flight was long; I couldn’t sleep at all.
  • Couldn’t get comfortable in the chair & the pillow was a joke. It's also worth pointing out that, apart from the paper-thin padding used on the Aer Lingus seats, the coverings featured a replication of James Joyce's Ulysses in his handwriting. Not only was I uncomfortable, but I was also needlessly distracted by impenetrable prose.
  • Dinner was Beef Wellington or chicken cacciatore--chicken was tasty, but I picked at it, having eaten at McDonald’s in ORD four hours earlier. Yeah, that was dumb of me. I should have done my research, as international flights almost always serve higher-quality food than what you'd find on any domestic-in-the-US carrier.
  • Stewardesses are cute, though I seem to have made an “enemy” of one Tracey Byrne; I always seem to have been in her way wherever I was on the plane. I was apparently impressed by the flight attendants' appearance, as I had repeated myself. As for Tracey, now you all know my secret moves to get the fairer sex to pay attention to me: act like a complete doofus, and sooner or later, you WILL be noticed. Of course, such a method doesn't guarantee that the attention you garner for yourself will be good.
  • In-flight movies & TV: some Irish or British sitcom; “Head Of The Class” with Billy Connolly(!); Spy Kids & some Disney Channel-smelling film with the two girls from “Sister, Sister” involving reverse aging and a magical bar of soap--LOTS OF WACKY HIJINKS ENSUED! The film with Tia and Tamera Mowry was a 2000 release called, according to Wikipedia, Seventeen Again, that also starred Tahj Mowry of the WB series "Smart Guy." In spite of its Disneyesque smell, it was actually produced for Showtime by Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman.
  • I sat next to Heather, my father, and Michael (musical chairs on their part--either that, or I smelled bad). Most likely a joke, as I was undoubtedly awash in cologne.
  • Ended up in window seat when Michael sat down; I was originally in the aisle (Airbus A330-300, 2-4-2 seating, left side behind wing--37C, then 37A. BIG JET.). I prefer a window seat on an airplane as I enjoy looking at the scenery from above. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see, as the first entry on this date reflects.
  • Landing 1 hour early at 08:10
  • Breakfast will be served soon. I was starting to get to the point where I was too tired to eat.

15 July 2001, 11:00

  • 74p/L = £2.98/4 L = approx. $3.30/gal for unleaded gas (exchange rate being $1.15 = £1). I noted this while spotting a gas station during the drive from Dublin Airport to our hotel.
  • Upcoming euro conversion has slightly devalued Irish pound (or punt). For the purposes of my trip, I truncated the conversion in my head and treated all prices as if they were in US dollars.
  • I’m writing in lobby of Jury’s Dublin on Merrion Road, located in the Ballsbridge neighborhood. Ballsbridge has lots of embassies, and is apparently one of the wealthiest parts of Dublin.

_17_0017: Jury's Hotel

  • Coke here isn’t as sickly sweet as in US; right now, caffeine is my friend. I've only discovered the joys of coffee this year, and I was still a few years away from lattes and mochas, so Coke
  • My luggage has a rip in the smaller bag; will see how bad it is once I get my bags again at check-in. The handling of baggage at Dublin Airport left a lot to be desired, and I wasn't the only person who felt the consequences of their poor portaging. Read on for more...
  • Unable to check in until noon or later--STILL CAN’T SLEEP.
  • Walked around perimeter of hotel, found ATM and took out £100. Or $115.
  • Have nearly gotten killed trying to cross street as I instinctively look the wrong way. I'm sure Dubliners have no problem identifying tourists because of their scary ways of crossing streets.
  • I’m seeing lots of cars I’ve only read about in CAR: Fiat, Peugeot, Citroën, Alfa Romeo, Opel (or Vauxhall?), Renault, Škoda--DIESELS ARE EVERYWHERE (diesel is around 20p less per liter than unleaded). I took far too many pictures of cars on this trip as I was geekily excited about seeing brands that either I haven't seen since the 80s (Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Fiat) or had never seen before (Opel/Vauxhall, Citroën, Škoda).

---_0018: The first of many car photos

  • Jim, the driver of our rented bus, mentioned a big Gaelic football game was happening at 3 PM (Dublin vs. Meath). A five-minute video of the ins and outs of Gaelic football can be seen at the link; I make no guarantee that it will be permanent as lots of YouTube videos have short half-lives.
  • The couple in front of us seem to be living up some stereotype: she’s reading gossip section in Sunday Telegraph; he’s reading football results (Lions lost to Cameroon?). I looked this up online to verify the loss, and it turns out I had the wrong sport: "Lions" refer to the English rugby team, and I don't know where I got Cameroon from as the guy was reading about the British and Irish Lions losing a test match to Australia in Sydney.
  • Optional tour of Powerscourt near Wicklow at 4 PM; “mandatory” dinner and entertainment at the Abbey Pub in Howth at 6 PM.
  • Something big going on in hotel--lots of very well-dressed people in lobby, with a few of them smoking.
  • Lots of places closed on Sunday. I shouldn't have been surprised by this.
  • No Powerscourt Garden tour--we’re all too tired. Here's where we didn't go.
  • I’m in room 807 with Ryan--let’s go!

15 July 2001, 23:45

  • Switched rooms, Ryan & I got one with two beds, color TV, and no smoking. Ireland imposed a strict smoking ban in 2004. Our visit reminded me of the America from the 70s, when seemingly "everyone" smoked "everywhere."
  • I slept from 1 to 6 PM and missed the Gaelic football match.
  • Left at 6:45 PM for Abbey Tavern in the Dublin suburb of Howth, which is on a peninsula forming the eastern part of Dublin Bay. Howth is in Fingal County, which itself is a subdivision of the old County Dublin. To confuse matters, Fingal is one part of the Dublin Region, and for sporting purposes such as Gaelic football, it is still identified as being part of County Dublin. Additionally, Fingal is not Einhorn, nor should one ever dopple their Fingal.

---_0021: Ye Olde Abbeye Taverne

  • Saw lots of people outside pubs as the match was over--Dublin’s colors are two shades of blue. Royal blue and sky blue, in case you're interested.
  • Dinner--hey, we’re in Ireland with fellow tourists, so guess what we’re eating? Yep, corned beef, cabbage, cream of potato soup. "When stereotypes go bad..."
  • Met relatives: Maurice O’Brien, his wife (whose name I can’t recall), and their two children Maurice (17) & Ashley (26). Ashley is on the left, her mother is to her left, Maurice O'Brien is partially obscured by Maurice Twomey, who is holding four-month old Grace Twomey. Our family trip had people with ages ranging from under 7 months to almost 70 years.

_23_0023: One, two, three Maurices

  • Relatives shook their heads at the food and entertainment of Irish dancing and folk songs. And by "relatives," I mean the younger Irish relatives, not the American ones. As this visit was during the years of the Celtic tiger, Ashley and Maurice Jr. were definitely more interested in being contemporary than historic.
  • I liked a couple of the songs, but they were the ones about drinking and murder--heh. In other words, Nick Cave's murder ballads and slowed-down Pogues songs.

__2_0026: Improvised percussion instruments

  • Ashley recommended pubs in the Christchurch neighborhood; Temple Bar is the tourist hangout.
  • Made it home around 11 PM--the sky was finally getting pitch black at that time. The flip side of such long sunny summer days is the wintertime, when the sun rises around 10 AM and sets around 3 PM. Pass the booze, please.
  • Kate and my dad still haven’t found their luggage; it’s either still at Dublin, or it never left the plane and flew onward to Shannon (on the other side of Ireland).
  • My one bag has a rip in it about 3 inches long--no big deal. Given how my parents were jet-lagged and without luggage, I considered myself fortunate to have only had such a small tear.
  • On TV now: “The Devil’s Own.” I must have missed the famous Harrison Ford finger-pointing scene. You can see stills from many scenes here.
  • Oh, nearly forgot about the bad Irish comedy featuring the gay jokes about how “fag” here means cigarettes, and in doesn't, and how every guy in San Francisco can live like a queen--charming. To counteract such unpleasantness, here are pictures of relatives. My sister Natalie cousin Heather, I believe. The next picture has, from left to right, my uncle Michael, Maurice Twomey, Maurice O'Brien, Maurice's wife (I'll eventually find out her name), Ashley, and Maurice.

__1_0025: Shy Heather(?) is shy

__4_0028: A parting photo

  • Breakfast will be between 7-9 AM tomorrow, followed by a city tour starting at 9:45 AM. I tried, yet failed, to eat a full Irish breakfast during my time there--it's too much meat for me to digest that early in the day.