Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hidden Gems on the Emerald Isle

Hidden Gems

Mr. Magoo

Let's start on the overseas flight. I was happy to find a non-stop Portland to Amsterdam flight on KLM. Yea, it's a long 10 hour flight but at least we're over "the pond"( I don't like that cliche, but there was no way around it). Much rather spend a little time in Holland than New Jersey. Sorry, Governor Christie. From Amsterdam it's just a little more than an hour up to Dublin on an airplane with a lucky shamrock on it's tail, Aer Lingus.

Soon after the safety demo, the menu was announced. They were going to feed us every couple hours and if we behaved ourselves offer complimentary beer and wine. We behaved ourselves the entire flight. In addition, we were entertained with a huge selection of in-flight movies. Forget the neck pillow, eye shades, and ear plugs, I'm watching movies and drinking beer. I forgot how good Heineken is on a Dutch airline. Two films, two thumbs 35,000 feet up, "Perks of Being a Wallflower" and a documentary, "Sound City".
Dingle Brewing

After a week of settling with pints of Guinness or Smithwick's, Tom Crean's lager from Dingle Brewing was a nice break from the norm. An easy walk just up the Connor Pass road is Dingle Brewing. A little stream runs through this former dairy with water filtered by the abundant limestone. Go in, talk to Steven. Pay the 7 Euro to walk through the self-guided tour. You'll learn a little bit about their flagship lager, Tom Crean's. Tom Crean was a local hero noted for his South Pole exploration, including the one aboard the sinking Shakelton ship. At the end, grab a tractor seat at the bar and Steven will pour you a pint. Here's to you, Tom Crean!

Driving around Ireland you'll see Celtic high crosses scattering the landscape. These are cemeteries and should be visited. If there could be a favorite cemetery, it would be the little one on the rocky ground of Inisheer. Generations of O'Flannery's, Joyce's, and O'Brien's spent their entire lives making dirt from seaweed and sand to grow grass and eventually graze their sheep. They're all buried here, in that dirt.

Up in Northern Ireland is the Giants Causeway. So named for the folklore of two Giants. One in Scotland across the water, and one, Finn McCool, on the Irish side. After taking the guided tour and walking amid the cool shaped stones, visit the brand new Visitor's Center. The Disney-like video will captivate as you are told the story of the two Giants who used to live here. The other interactive hexagonal kiosks are worth checking out. It's not just intended for little people, but grown-ups too.

Finn McCool's Boot

We passed by Dunluce Castle twice on the way out to the Giants Causeway. From the road it looked like another ruined castle washing into the sea. Pull over and get a closer look. For a few Euro you can take a self-guided audio tour or have a real live person show you around the castle. Anthony took us around. The falling down castle was once a working village and has a fascinating history behind it. Have Anthony point out the ancient stone carvings. We tried to decode the stone etched will a bell, a ladder, 2,2, and a coffin. What do you think?

 Ancient Graffiti

Back in Dublin we wanted to find the smallest pub. We found it! On Dawson Street. Almost walked past it, the Dawson Lounge. Sure enough, it's small, but we were the only ones in there so it seemed cavernous. Otherwise, come later at night. You're shoulder to shoulder with 16 other people, mostly drunk. Instead, go at Happy Hour, they'll be plenty of room to hang your hat.

Real gems, FOUND!

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