A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jshaughnessy

2015 in Review

As 2015 comes to a close I reflect on the last year of travel. It was a great year with new locations to explore and helping others experience the wonderful world of travel that I so love. It started out with a cruise on the Liberty of the Seas for Rock Legends Cruise III. Some bands were repeat like Marshall Tucker Band and Edgar Winter. New this year was Doobie Brothers and Alice Cooper. Other travels in 2015 took us to Williamsburg, VA to visit relatives and old Air Force friends. We went twice and the one trip we went to Busch Gardens. In late August it was another short Bahamas cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy to see a Live Concert-Boston. They were good singing all the old classic songs. The big trip of the year came in September when we flew first class to Rome. The flatbeds on Delta were nice. We arrived well rested in Rome and found our way from the airport to the Termini station. Our pre-night hotel, PalladiumPalace was only blocks away. We enjoyed exploring Rome using the Hop On/Hop Off getting off at Trevi Fountain to explore the area more. The fountain was under restoration which was disappointing, but the wonderful Gelato we found just down the street made up for the disappointment. Yummy! The next day we took the train from Termini station to the port Civitavecchia to catch a cruise on the beautiful Celebrity Silhouette. It was a nine night cruise to ports of call in Italy, Sicily, France, and Corsica. We had fun exploring new sights and trying new food and drinks.

The end of the year was filled with back-to-back travel with two more cruises, a trip to Cancun, and the ever beautiful Ireland. One of the cruises was on the mega ship Oasis of the Seas. We traveled with three other couples introducing five to their first experience on a mega ship, and the sixth to his first cruise ever. What a first time cruise for him to experience such a behemoth ship! The second cruise was an inaugural 3-night cruise to see a brand new ship; the Norwegian Escape. Cancun was a travel agent educational trip to experience the Hard Rock Riviera Maya-All Inclusive. A very classy resort with great food, entertainment, and accommodations. One could spend the afternoon just walking around the resort taking in all the rock and roll memorabilia which adorns the resort. Finishing out the year was my eighth trip to Ireland. Another travel agent education trip to experience and inspect some awesome sights and places.

After arriving in Dublin I teamed up with some other travel agents and we were met by our motor coach driver, Leslie, who escorted the whole trip. We headed North through the beautiful countryside of Northern Ireland. It wasn't long and we were seeing the Mourne Mountains. Our first stop was for tea and scones and an inspection at Ballymascanlon House Hotel, an old Victorian home. Set in 130 acres the beautiful hotel dates to 833 ad. It was then time for a Belfast city tour which included a stop at the Titanic Experience. Then on to our hotel for the night, the Galgorm Resort and Spa. It was dark when we arrived and little did I know what a treat awaited me outside my window in the morning. The next morning I swept back my curtains to a breathtaking waterfall rushing over layers of rocks in a wide river. The tranquil scene was set with the surrounding colors of bright green grass and trees decorated with Fall colors. I couldn't wait to explore more. This luxurious place was truly a place that deserved more time, but we were limited. It was on to the Dark Hedges. The beautiful entwined beech trees were planted centuries ago but have gained notoriety with the filming of HBO's series Game of Thrones. Now tourist will flock to the area so get there early. Next was the infamous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which I had always been intrigued at the pictures and wondered if I would be brave enough to take the challenge of crossing. That question was answered when we arrived to find very high winds and the bridge was closed. After time for refreshments and picture taking we were off to the Giant's Causeway. I visited the Causeways on my very first trip to Ireland in 2003 and wondered "Would it look the same?" Some areas looked blacker than I had remembered, but for the most part the 40,000 Basalt hexagon shaped columns looked as mysterious now as they did back then. It was time for inspection and lunch at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel in Derry. This hotel is steeped in history being used as Naval-Marine Base1 Europe during WWII. It has been frequented by President Bill Clinton and other celebrities. Already a full day we still had a "hard-hat" tour of Bishop's Gate Hotel; a Gentlemen's club being restored to a 5 star property, and then a Mayoral's reception meeting at the Guildhall in Derry. I was ready for bed after our dinner at our hotel for the night the Maldron Hotel.

Our next day started with a walking tour of Derry including walking on 1/2 mile of the walled city as we learned the history of the Apprentice boys and Bloody Sunday. Later we spent a couple hours at Ulster American Folk Park. The exhibits were half inside and the historical village outside. It was cool and rainy so I looked forward to our lunch of soup and salad at the Manor House Hotel in Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland. Then on to our hotel for the next two nights in Donegal, Mill Park Hotel. The Mill Park was a quick ten minutes to walk into the charming town of Donegal. Several of us checked out The Reel Inn at night for some drinks and fun listening to some "Trad" music of a two piece Irish band. I was treated to a beautiful rendition of my favorite Irish song, Carrick Fergus. The next morning brought sunshine and a beautiful clear day to view the Slieve League Cliffs Centre. The cliffs rise out of the sea 2000ft and the vistas stretch as far as the eye can see. After viewing the breathtaking scenery our guide Paddy treated us to tea and scones in his cafe Ti Lynn Cafe and Craft shop. I couldn't resist buying a whimsical shelf-sitting wooly sheep. Our next stop was the Donegal Tweed Shop where we were treated to a welcoming Irish Coffee and the owners demonstrated hand weaving the wool on old wooden looms. The result was beautiful handmade tweed capes, coats, hats and scarfs. Back in Donegal we had free time to explore and shop before leaving for our dinner Cabaret show at Harvey's Point, Lough Eske, Donegal. What a spread! We were seated at long tables in a huge showroom where they brought us soup first, then instructed us to go to another room to get our appetizers. OMG! the appetizers alone were enough for a meal. Tables shaped in a large "U" held a variety of salads, soups, meats, vegetables, and finger food. My main course of Sea Bass came with carrots and potatoes then it was off to the other room again to pick our desserts. The same "U" shaped appetizer tables had been replaced with nonstop desserts! The Cabaret show started with a wonderful singing Italian Chef, followed by Fiddling Adam who could rival Charlie Daniels in the Devil Went Down to Georgia. Topping off the night were the Burns Brothers. Cute and precocious they sang and danced to Irish tunes. A good time was had by all.

Thursday morning started out sunny again but a bit nippy at 48 degrees as we had an early morning view of the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in Sligo. Surrounded by beautiful mountains you can see the flat topped famous Ben Belbun mountain. As our guide explained the history of these ancient tombs a rainbow appeared in the distance behind Ben Belbun. You might say we were having the Luck of the Irish with our clear weather. Next we visited an up and coming small craft brewery, Carrig Brewing Company. I tried three of the beers and was pleased at the smooth taste of the darks, reds, and pales. When one mentions Irish Beer your first thought will probably go to Guinness, and reasonably so. However; craft breweries are becoming big in Ireland just as they are in the USA. I have researched and found many others in this area of Sligo, and other parts of Ireland. Next on our agenda was a light lunch and show around the Lough Rynn Castle in Co. Leitrim. The 350 acres are full of history, breathtaking scenery, lush pastures, ancient forests, and a peaceful Victorian Garden. There was time to sit back and relax (or nap) as we had an hour and half ride from the castle to our next overnight hotel, the Mount Falcon Estate. In the morning I snapped some picture and took notes of all the amenities of the estate. This would be a great place for someone to spend a whole week with the estate as their base camp. Activities abound in the area and the estate offers self-contained cabins, spa and gym, falconry, archery, fishing, hiking, and more.

Our trip was winding down and Friday found us on the road to Dublin with a stop at the Tullamore DEW Visitor Centre for a whiskey tasting before continuing on to visit O'Callaghan Davenport Hotel and then checking in across the street at Mont Clare Hotel. There was some free time before we would leave for our farewell dinner show at Ireland's oldest pub, The Brazen Head dating back to 1198. Our entertainer for the evening was Ollie who told stories and tales of folklore and fairies and sang Irish songs. I dined on warm chicken salad and salmon as I listened to Ollie spin his tales, and before we knew it the evening fun was over and time to return to the hotel to pack for the flight home. It was another grand trip to Ireland.

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Posted by jshaughnessy 12:28 Tagged ireland northern_ireland brazen_head Comments (0)

Ireland

Rock of Cashel, King John's Castle, Bunratty, Dublin

semi-overcast

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The past few days have been very full. Long days traveling, inspecting hotels, and seeing sights. After our day of rain on Thursday, Friday started out with beautiful sunshine. First order of the day before leaving Killarney was a sight inspection of the hotel Maldron. It is being bought by the same family that owns the beautiful Hayfield Manor and Killarney Royal. After the inspection we were on the road for a couple hours before we reached Rock of Cashel. It's an amazing piece of medieval architect. In 1101 the King of Munster turned it over to the Irish Christians and it played a huge role
For many years in Irish Christianity. An interesting 10 minute video tells the history of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel sits high on a hill and the views over Ireland are breathtaking.

Leaving the rock we continued on for an inspection and lunch at the Dundrum Resort. Lunch was good with soup and sandwiches. They've been feeding us so much that a light lunch is welcome. The Dundrum is an 18th century house with decor of the time period. They offer spa, gym, and ¹8 hole golf. They even have self-catering units nearby. It was starting to drizzle as we left Dundrum for King John's Castle in Limerick. Built in 1200 it now has interactive exhibits to help tell the history. Touring the grounds you will see archaeology excavations that have revealed pre-Norman settlements. It was then time to move on as our farewell dinner was tonight at our hotel the Fitzgerald's Woodlands House and Hotel in Adare. Mrs Fitzgerald herself came and spoke to us about the hotel. The dining room we were eating in was part of the original home and they kept adding and adding and now it's a 94 room hotel with spa, gym, and 20 meter pool. Dinner was good, I had prime rib. When they brought out the tray of desserts everyone was drooling over cheese cake, chocolate decadence cake, and several other homemade goodies.

Saturing morning was early for some of the travel agents. Those that had early flights left the hotel for the Shannon airport at 6:15, others at 8:15am. It would be about 25 minutes drive. The owner of Isle Inn Tours and I picked up a rental car at Shannon to drive back to Dublin. We stopped first at Bunratty Folk Park. The park was actually closed for Christmas decorating but they let us walk around. The famous Dirty Nellie's pub and Bunratty Castle are by the park. We stopped in to the Blarney Woolen Mills across the street for a little shopping. The day started out with beautiful blue skies and sun. We didn't reach Dublin until around 3 Pm and by then the skies were gray and it started raining. Mike dropped me off at Dublin airport and he was continuing on to Armagh to visit relatives. I took the hotel shuttle from the airport to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, where I went through brochures and made notes on places we've visited.

Today was my last day in Dublin before I fly home tomorrow. I made the most of it walking all around Dublin exploring and taking lots of notes and pictures. If I saw an interesting pub I'd pop in and look. I found the Clarence hotel which is half owned by Bono of U2. I chatted with the bartender and he said Bono was just there Wednesday night. I found the Sweny Pharmacy which gained fame when James Joyce wrote Ulysses and mentioned the pharmacy in the book. It is now turned into an used book store and still has furnishings from it's beginning. I found one old pub T P Smith's that had a beautiful mosaic mural on the wall. I think my real find of the day was a bank turned restaurant that was stunning inside. It was a very full day, lots of walking and still haven't seen it all. It's been a fabulous trip but I'm ready to go home tomorrow, but am already contemplating when I can come back.

Posted by jshaughnessy 13:30 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin rock_of_cashel bunratty Comments (0)

Ireland

Ring Of Kerry

rain 55 °F

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Posted by jshaughnessy 15:18 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland ring_of_kerry killarney Comments (0)

Ireland

Waterford, Cobh, Cork, Kinsale

IMG_20141105_051432.jpgIMG_20141105_051415.jpgIMG_20141105_033642.jpgIMG_20141105_034535.jpgIMG_20141105_033841.jpgIMG_20141105_030447.jpgIMG_20141104_115354.jpgIMG_20141104_092121.jpgIMG_20141104_071330.jpgIt's been a very busy two days. The weather has been sunny every day and avéraging in the 50's. We started out yesterday with a walking tour of Waterford. It was founded by Vikings in 914. Many believe the city got it's name from the famous Waterford Crystal. The name Waterford actually derived from the Viking days. Waterford means "safe harbour". The original Waterford Crystal factory closed several years ago. You can go to the " House of Crystal " visitors center to learn about the crystal and purchase pieces from a large selection.

Next it was on to the Garryvoe Hotel for a light lunch and inspection. Their version of light lunch was fish, lamb shanks, potatoes, vegetables, salads, breads and deserts. The Garryvoe is located across from a five mile sandy beach and across the way is Ballycotten lighthouse. It is the only black lighthouse in Ireland. The Garryvoe has a fabulous pool with a side add-on Olympic lane. After our lunch and inspection we continued to the famous town of Cobh. Many know this town for the last port of call of the Titanic. The Cobh Heritage Center inside the old train station, tells the story of the Irish Immigrants during the Potato Famine. A statue in front of the center is of Annie Moore, the first Irish Immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island. In Cobh you can see the White Star building, (company that owned Titanic). You can also tour the St Coleman's Cathedral where all immigrants took communion before they boarded the vessels for their voyage to America. Cobh is also historic for the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 out in the harbor. A monument stands in the town to commemorate the Lusitania's plight.

Our hotel for the night was the Hayfield Manor. What a magnificent place. Family run you can tell the special touches and detail. Our motor coach was greeted by the concierge wearing top hat and tails. He greeted us with a song. Dinner was superb. I had a melt in your mouth petite steak.

Today we hated to leave the delightful Hayfield Manor but it was time to move on to Cork. We spent a little over an hour at the English Market in Cork. It was unbelievable the amount of fresh seafood. The fish monger said it is all sold every day. Beautiful fresh vegetables and fruit, handmade chocolates, sumptuous baked goods, the market seemed endless. I could imagine myself living in Cork and going to the market every day to pick out what I would have for dinner.

After Cork it was a short distance to Kinsale. An old fishing village. We had lunch at the Trident Hotel with a view of the bay. You clearly new you were in a fishing village when we received seafood chowder and fresh seafood platter. Oyster, mussels, shrimp, salmon and makerel. After lunch we headed for the town Killarney where we will spend two nights at the Killarney Royal hotel. Once again we were given too much food. I skipped the appetizer, but my chicken stir fry was enough for two people, plus the Irish Cream Mousse for dessert.

Posted by jshaughnessy 14:48 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Ireland

Kilkenny and New Ross

sunny

IMG_20141103_112135.jpgIMG_20141103_095242.jpgIMG_20141103_104902.jpgIMG_20141103_074046.jpgIMG_20141103_064231.jpgIMG_20141103_051334.jpgIMG_20141103_111753.jpgIt was another beautiful sunny day with the exception of about 1/2 hour of light rain while we were riding on the motor coach. So it didn't affect our activities. We started out with a walking tour of the Walled City of Kilkenny. The tour started in front of Kilkenny castle. We saw St Mary's church and St Mary's Cathedral (two separate parts of town). We also saw the Dominican Black Abbey church. The highlight of my visit to Kilkenny was visiting the Smithwick's Brewery Experience. Smithwick's is Ireland's oldest beer. The Smithwick's Experience was impressive and interesting. Thanks to today's modern technology, pictures of the Smithwick's family come to life and tell you the history throughout the years. The free pint of Smithwick's at the end of the tour tasted pretty smooth and refreshing. It was then on to the Kilkenny River Court hotel for a light lunch of soup and sandwiches. The River Court sits just across the river from the castle and has great views.

We left Kilkenny after lunch and headed to New Ross to see the Dunbrody Famine Ship. It is a replica of the original, but the bell on the ship is 150 years old from the original Dunbrody ship. The ship is steeped in history of the Irish Immigrants plight.
The city of New Ross is also known for being the area where John F Kennedy was born nearby. Two years ago an eternal flame was lite from the flame on Kennedy's grave in Arlington and brought over to New Ross. It rest in a large bronze globe and sits near the Dunbrody Famine Ship. Before leaving New Ross we did an inspection of Brandon House Hotel. They greeted us with wine and hordourves
It was a nice hotel up on a hill with view of the mountains. A twenty minute ride and we were in Waterford at our hotel for the night, Dooley's. Dinner at Dooley's was exceptional.

Posted by jshaughnessy 15:49 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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