We had a tour guide named Joey showing us the south-the rules on the bus were explained early on and pretty much coloured the rest of the trip. Anytime anyone saw a cute guy/girl out the window, they were to yell "sauce". Sauce was to be searched for each evening in the pub and all scandal revealed the next day to everyone on the bus. So silly on these tours! Especially as there are some nice looking bartenders in Galway (mmm, sauce). Joey was quite a laugh, kept us all amused telling us about the time the bus got stuck on a beach with the tide coming in, or stuck under a canopy at a petrol station.
Day one started out with a leisurely drive through Dublin-the city streets were empty since it was a bank holiday, so we drove through the rich area and saw the houses of Bono, the Edge, Enya, etc. Our first stop was Glendalough, absolutely gorgeous area that was used to film several scenes in Braveheart. A waterfall, two lochs, and a monastic city; it was lovely and we spent an hour walking around in the hot sun-it was the start of a heat wave in Ireland (and apparently in Scotland-just my luck to miss the one good week of weather in two years!). We ate a picnic lunch on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle (sadly, mum, I didn't have a pint of your favourite cream ale in Kilkenny) and then drove up to the Rock of Cashel. Can't really remember it's significance (bad, I know), but it had a very nice ruined church and an old statue of St Patrick. Our first night was in Kinsale, very nice hostel!
We visited Charles Fort, built by the English, and then headed to Blarney Castle. Very long queue for the stone kissing, and you can pay 9 euro for a photo. I am actually quite tempted as I am sure the look of utter terror on my face would be very amusing for all of the rest of you. I am not too fond of heights, and you get to suspend your entire upper body over a very, very long drop while holding on to two bars to kiss something that looks like something a large dog has just slobbered all over. Nice, huh? The castle itself is very pretty though, and after a quick lunch, we enjoyed a visit to one of the most touristy, tacky shops ever. I am pleased to say I held out against temptation, buying only a couple of postcards. Andrea and David, you were lucky, cause the tacky things I could have bought you...
Down into Dingle, we stayed at a 17th century manor converted into a hostel and were introduced to Joey's famous punch. This was really alcoholic stuff, and we all washed it down with further bottles of wine, etc. The next morning we drove along the Dingle Pennisula, to see all the fantastic sea views, and crazy cliffs the bus always managed not to fall off. Visited a triangular church, Gallarus Oratory, and went to Dingle for lunch. Passed up the opportunity to go and see the famous Dingle dolphin, though I had only seen some fuzzy ones from a bus window... That was rectified later in the week when we saw some for quite awhile swimming along as we rode past in the bus. So it's only an otter I have missed seeing this summer...
We went to Inch Beach, because the weather that week really was amazing. Then we drove over to Killarney and took a horse and cart ride through the national park-very beautiful and very relaxing. We wandered off to see some Irish set dancing that night (like ceilidh dancing with tap shoes).
It turns out that the high king of Ireland these days is a goat named King Puck-and I have the photos to prove it. After that fun stop, we drove along the Ring of Kerry road, with some really incredible scenery. At one point the clouds over the sea were lower than the surrounding land-hope those photos turn out because it really was magical. Got taught hurling (vaguely like lacrosse) and ate bailey's flavoured ice cream in Sneem. We finished off the day with a view of the lakes of Killarney National Park from above in the hills and a visit to Torc waterfall.
Our next day took us on a ferry between County Kerry and County Claire. Another stop at a beach, this time no sand as the tide was in, and then we visited the Cliffs of Moher. The week before a woman from Dublin was blown off them, so I stayed well back. Very dramatic, maybe more so than the Slieve Cliffs in the north, which are bigger. We drove through a very rocky area badly affected by the famine on our way to Galway.
Another Friday night in Galway-this is one fun city. We went and discovered a brilliant drink called fat frogs (at Richardson's, where some of us, not me, had forgotten to pay for meals the week before! We weren't recognized!!!) and spent the evening again in the King's Head.
Our last day was largely just a drive back towards Dublin-with a visit to the Guinness Brewery. The store there is very addictive, I now own two Guinness t-shirts and will very likely never drink a pint of Guinness again-unless I return to Ireland, of course.
I managed not to get stuck with Rebecca, the annoying girl from my north tour, too much. Avoiding sharing hostel rooms with her became something of a military operation... I kid you not, she was so clingy, she offered to come with me while I called Alan one evening! Jenny and Andrea, I think she might even beat Maureen as a horrible person to travel with.
To finish off the trip in style, the airline left my bags behind in Dublin. I arrived in Scotland at 8 am, they didn't show up until 10.30 pm. In the queue to report them missing, I heard that Air Transat had lost a bunch of bags on the Toronto-Glasgow run, which is very reassuring since I fly with them on Friday to Toronto! I will be bringing an extra set of clothing with me in my hand luggage obviously.
Ban the Fat Frog
A NORTHSIDE TD has called for a new 'designer' drink to be banned from Dublin pubs.
According to Deputy Martin Brady (FF), the 'Fat Frog' cocktail is increasing in popularity, particularly among young drinkers. He claimed the new drink fad is worrying because the alcohol content in it is extremely high and has the ability to render the drinker incapacitated very quickly.
"The 'Fat Frog' combines several 'alco-pops' mixed in the one pint glass," said Mr Brady. "At a cost of around e15, they are capable of getting drinkers extremely intoxicated very quickly and this fad must be stopped now before it spirals out of control. To drink three types of alco-pops in one glass is nothing other than stupid and dangerous."
Deputy Brady said that having worked in the bar trade for over 10 years he witnessed at first hand the emergence of designer drinks and alco-pops.
"I believe the onus is on the publican to be vigilant and sensible when it comes to serving 'Fat Frogs' and alco-pops in general," said Mr Brady. "The Fat Frog fad will take off if publicans continue to serve them so I appeal to publicans to stop it now for the sake of us all as a nation which has a gigantic drinking problem."