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awatt 07-14-2008 10:20 PM

Emerald Isle 6/26-7/3 -Link to pics on page 2
Emerald Isle 6/26/08-7/3/08 Myself, DH and our two daughters 11 and 9 on ABDís family tour of Ireland. This was our second ABD tour, and I wondered if I would like it as much as last yearís Costa Bella trip.

Day 1 Dublin: After an uneventful 5 and a half hour Aer Lingus flight from JFK we arrived in Dublin airport, were met by one of our guides, and transferred by van to the Westin Dublin where we met our other guide Courtney. The Westin Dublin is very nice, and in a great location fro walking around the various sights of the city. It was rainy but we ventured out anywaty. Had lunch at Gallagherís Boxty House a few blocks away in the Temple Bar section. Loved the chicken boxty! Girls split the fish and chips, said it was the best they ever had. Shopped at Carollís Irish store for the obligatory chachkes, and Blarney Woollen Mills where sweaters were reasonable, then Christina and I went back to the hotel to rest a little, but did not nap in order to get our bodies on Ireland time. Chris and Meghan went to the pub across the street called OíSullivanís. the pubs are really different in Ireland compared to the US. Kids are welcome until 9 PM. Thereís lots of good music day and night and the people are SO friendly. They just start talking to you and make you feel welcome. We then had our welcome dinner at the Westin complete with a harpist. The first of numerous Disney touches- and met our fellow adventurers. We were a group of 21 I think with 11 adults of all ages, and 10 kids ranging from 6 to 16 or 17. Dinner was buffet and very good. We went to bed early as we were quite tired from staying up all day. One neat thing about Dublin and Ireland in general is this time of year it stays light until 10:30 Pm or so. Dublin is also a very young city, lots of young people and itís vibrant.

Day 2 Dublin: After a very nice buffet breakfast the group headed out touring. As it was rainy , we had a bus. First stop was Dublinia museum where we learned some of Dublinís history, about medieval Dublin, and the Viking influence on Dublin. Next stop, Dublin castle which was so beautiful inside! Really impressive. (Although the exterior doesnít really look like a castle.) third stop was the Guinness storehouse. First was a tour and we learned how Guinness is made. After a sample, we went to the 5th floor for lunch, with views of the city. Lunch was very good- save room for the desserts! Back on the bus to the Westin, thankfully by now the rain had stopped.

At the Westin we had the option of a tour to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, which was very, very impressive. Particularly when you consider there was no printing press at the time, not even pen and ink as we know it. You were on your own to spend as much or little time as you like there. On the way out you exit through the very large Harry Potter type library, pretty cool. There is also a gift shop there. I noticed signs regarding pickpockets, and to watch your bag, so be mindful of that.

I then met up with the rest of my family, who had already begun the Watt family pub tour at OíSulllivanís. We then went to the Auld Dubliner (good music here!) and 2 others. Again, the people are so nice here. Apparently a woman with children should not stand, so folks will give you their seat if they see you standing. By then it was time for dinner. I had originally researched and picked a pub for dinner- the Stagís head- only to find when we arrived they only serve lunch. Didnít research well enough obviously. We ended up at a place called OíNeillís that a few of the locals recommended because ďItís just like me mum used to cookĒ. OíNeills was very busy, actually bustling on a Friday night. It was very reasonable too, probably because you order your food at a counter and carry it back to your table. The food was indeed very good and we enjoyed the place.

Dublin is really a fun city.

Day 3 Dublin to Killarney: After breakfast we headed out on the bus. I really enjoyed the bus rides throughout the trip. It is very comfortable, and the pastoral scenery is just gorgeous as you drive by. I knew Ireland is green, obviously, but you donít know how green until you see it. It almost glows or something. Very relaxing. Saw cows laying down, which we learned means itís gong to rain. Now thatís a surprise! Passing the quaint, immaculate towns and farmhouses itís like out of a movie. After about an hour or maybe a little more, we stopped for a bathroom brake at a hotel in Abbey Liex. Well this being Disney it wasnít just a restroom break, we had scones, tea and hot chocolate. Very nice touch.. And typical of an ABD tour.

About an hour later (I think), we arrived at the Rock of Cashel. Wow it is beautiful up high on a hill, and with great views of the valley below. We had a tour there, and had some great photo ops. Very, very impressive place.

Had lunch on our own in the town of Cashel. We ate at a pub the guides recommended. I donít clearly remember the name Ėthe Iveraugh mabe? It was the guides' favorite place to eat- and lunch was delicious. Basic Irish comfort food. And it was reasonable, too. Walking through town, at the bottom of the hill we saw an old antique car with a bride and her dad. The car got stuck. We watched, and watched some more, and there was no way it was going up the hill, it just died. So Chris and a few of the locals pushed it up the hill and it started running again. Made the brideís day, and a unique memory for us.

Hopped on the bus and arrived in Killarney mid afternoon. The ďtown crierĒ welcomed us there. This is a beautiful hotel as well. Lovely rooms, great service. Took the kids swimming in the indoor pool (bathing caps required-eek! Bring your own or buy one there) for some kid time with the other kids from the group. Nice pool area. Hot tub too for the adults.

Dinner was at Mentonís for the adult night while the kids had a storyteller, kid food, movie and pajama party including pillow fights. Food at Mentonís was excellent. I had the chicken. Desserts delicious as well.

It's getting late, more to come in the next few days

trampslady 07-15-2008 07:29 AM

Awesome report. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your family's experience with us. Sounds like lifetime memories were being made!

awatt 07-15-2008 09:56 PM

Day 4: Killarney- What a great day!

Another really good buffet breakfast at the hotel. Love the cheeses. Then met our jaunting carts across the street for our ride to Muckross House. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Our horse Thatcher(named after Margaret) was a beautiful 4 year old Irish draft horse. She was fast and liked to trot along . She stayed well ahead of the others! Our driver Paul was very nice, funny too. As you enter the park the scenery changes and is gorgeous with mountains, lakes , fields with cows and sheep, and forests. Just beautiful. Then we pulled up to Muckross house, a very stately mansion at the end of our ride. I was sorry the ride ended it was so much fun. And the girls were sorry to leave Thatcher.

Next was a tour of Muckross House and it’s history. It’s not a house but a mansion, and gorgeos. A wedding gift, no less. There were stunning views of the lake, mountains and park from the interior.

The tour was followed by a bikeride through the park. Very enjoyable, if not a little wobbly on my part. We all had a good time with this,And again, the scenery was beautiful. After about a 15 minute ride or so, we hiked to Torc waterfall. It was a short hike and not too strenuous. The forest we hiked through was quite pretty, I could see why the Irish were so taken with fairies in a place like this. My youngest daughter kept trying to spot one . The waterfall is a great photo op for the family, and very beautiful.

By now we had worked up an appetite , so we biked back to Muckross house for lunch. Lunch was very, very good. I really enjoyed the shepherd’s pie- served with extra potatoes on the side of course.( It’s a constant theme here. My daughter had a fish meal somewhere with 3 different potatoe sides. It’s not a low carb country!) After lunch, there was time to shop in the Muckross gift shop. They have some nice things here, especially the wool items that are made there. I also found some reasonably priced crystal gifts to bring back.

Since we were able to be done with shopping and lunch by 1:30, the guides had a surprise for us. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Ross Castle, which is very picturesqye. We had about a half hour there to walk around and take pictures. We were back to the hotel by 3Pm or so and the resr of the day was free time.

Took the girls for a swim, and also I enjoyed the hot tub. Then we checked out the shops in Killarney. We had dinner at a place called Salvadors which I do not recommend. It just wasn’t very good at all. And some of it was downright bad. Wanted to go to Bricin but it was closed the days we were there.

Day 5: Killarney- We skipped the optional morning walk through the park to let the family sleep in a little. Girls needed to recharge. I heard it was very enjoyable. We then took the bus to Kenmare Bay for our ecocruise. It was windy , chilly, and at times rainy on the boat. But we all had a good time. More lovely scenery, and a naturalist to show us the area and the history of it. And, there was plenty of hot chocolate, tea, coffee and snacks down below to keep us warm. Kids got a chance to drive the boat. We spotted native white seals on some islands, and some babies too. After the cruise, we drove to the town of Kenmare for lunch and shopping. Before lunch the guides took us for a 5 minute walk to see the stone circle, an ancient rock formation which was interesting. Had lunch at a liyttle Italian place the guides recommended and it was very good. Had some time for shopping too. There was a lovely linen shop. Also the Kenmare Woolen store had nice things which were reasonable, so it was a good place to get a few scarfs to bring back as gifts.

After Kenmare, we drove part of the ring of Kerry. Beautiful, very beautiful with panaoramic views. Stopped at Ladies View for a photo stop and to take in the vistas. We drove back to the hotel by late afternoon I think. That left time for a swim with the kids. We had dinner that night at Laurels Pub in Killarney, and this place I do recommend. Food was excellent. Seems to me in the smaller towns we did better sticking with the Irish food, it’s what they do best. Dessert was at Murphy’s ice cream shop. The ice cream was very good and so was the cappuccino. I missed American coffee and especially cream in my coffee. Here, like Italy, coffee means espresso with milk. And so ends yet another wonderful day in Ireland.

Day 6 Killarney to Newmarket on Fergus: It seemed that a lot of today was to be spent on the bus. But the ride is nicely broken up with stops, and the bus is comfortable and the scenery relaxing. So it’s very enjoyable believe it or not. The guides even provided a movie “Darby O’Gill” for our entertainment.

Our first stop was Inch Beach. Inch was pretty , but also windy and chilly- that meant more hot chocolate! We walked the beach with Bernie the naturalist and found some “Inch Conglomerate” rocks which are many millions of years old. Some folks-the brave ones- dipped their toes in the water. Going back to the bus we met a sweet Irish draft horse across the street, and I think our family loved her even more than the beach !

It was then a 2 hour drive to Adare. This is a lovely, lovely town with thatched roof houses and shops, and flowers in the windowboxes. I think it’s voted the most picturesque town in Ireland. Had Lunch at The Arches, a xharming place with good food and welcoming staff. Todd the photographer had lunch with us, and took pictures of the girls afterwards. Seems to me he liked the girls as subjects, took more pictures of them than anyone else. There is a heritage center in Adare where you can research your family name, and of course a gift shop.

After leaving Adare it was I think an hour or so to the hotel. I was still mesmerized by the scnery- stone fences sheep, farmhouses. Hard to describe, but very relaxing.

We arrived at the castle gate and proceeded up through picture-perfect grounds. The bus pulled up at a special entrance where the manager and senior staff were I n receiving line formation as we exited the bus. A royal welcome to a royal two days. We had a drink in a special lobby-beautiful of course- while the manager explained the history of Dromoland Castle and its facilities. We had problem with our rooms, which were not connecting- which was promptly fixed. I think tthis involved giving us an upgraded room s ours was considerable larger than the girls. The room were furnished beautifully, in keeping with the royal treatment. We were on the ground floor, so we did have to keep our windows closed at night, but it was cool anyway.

awatt 07-15-2008 10:01 PM

Day 6 continued, ran out of space
We had about 2 and a half hours till dinner so we walked the grounds which were like a postcard, very serene surrounding the grand castle. The walled gardens are beautiful. We had a drink outside the castle at a table in a small garden (4 glasses of sodea = 30 euros, do the math!) and it was quite sublime. At least it was until the downpour!

Dinner that night was at Bunratty castle for a traditional Irish show with music, stories, sining and dancing, with traditional Irish food. The show was nicely done and the food was decent.

Getting late again, more to come...

Poppins2000 07-16-2008 06:42 AM

I'm glad to hear you had such a good time-our only rainy day was Muckross day and while we were still able to to take the jaunty cart ride and trek to the falls, there was too much rain to go on the bike ride. Sorry to hear Bricin was closed, that was the best place to eat in Killarney (we also ate at Flesk which was very good as well). I can't wait to go back!!!

LocustPoint 07-16-2008 07:11 AM

Thanks for posting about your trip. It sounds amazing.

trampslady 07-16-2008 07:24 AM

Amazing report! Thanks again for taking the time to share! I had my husband reading late last night--really drawn in by your detail!

awatt 07-16-2008 06:56 PM

The last installment...
Day 7 Dromoland Castle: Breakfasts have been very good throughout the trip. Breakfast at the castle was excellent. There was botha buffet as well as a pretty extensive a la carte menu for us. Service in the restaurant was excellent and throught Dromoland, again, more of the royal treatment!

This was a busy day touring. The bus ride to the cliffs of Hoher was about an hour. I thought the cliffs would be nice, but had no idea how impressive they are. Gorgeous! It was a really nice stop, with some good photos with the stunning cliffs and Galway bay in the bakjground. It was quite windy up there and a little cool. Girls ďneededĒ another hot chocolate. We stayed there about an hour.

Then we drove through the Burren, with the Burren on our right and Galway Bay on our left. The Burren is very distinctive territory, and Galway Bay lovely. Again, I should have napped but couldnít. We stopped an hour later at Monks Pub in Clare, across form the water. The food was good, and the seafood very fresh. There were non-seafood choices as well. I recommend the brownie for dessert-awesome! After lunch we had alittle time on the dock across the street to check out the water views and take pictures.

Another hour later we were at Rathbaun Farm. First we made scones under the direction of Frances, the farmerís wife. Everyone had fun with this. Then her husband showed us around tehfarm. There was a pretty Connemara pony (donít see many of those in the US), cows and sheep, including quite a few lambs. The lambs were adorable. We saw their border collie herd the sheep which was really cool. Then he sheared a sheep for us. I was impressed how the sheep stayed pretty still for that. By then it was time to eat our scones, and man were they good! Warm out of the oven. (Can you tell by now there is no shortage offood on this tour?) We checked out the old house with the peat fireplace, then boarded the bus back to our ďhomeĒ at Dromoland.

Back at the castle we had a couple of hours so we took the girls to the indoor pool, which they really liked. It was cute how the kids got into the routine of arranging a time to meet at the pool almost daily. Chris and I had a drink at the patio of the golf club next to the pool overlooking the walled gardens. Again, it was almost surreal. But back to reality I also managed to hit the crystal shop for one last Waterford purchase.

After that we went to a hidden away hot tub on the ground floor of the castle near our rooms. It was a great spot, with a gazebo- type thing overhead and some fountains in the large hot tub. So we went there for just a little bit. DH had a beer there with the nice fellow adventurer who told us about the place, and we lounged in the hot tub. Very nice spot.

If there was a single regret or wish regarding the tour, I would have liked more free time at the castle. There was ffair amount to do there- boats, fishing, horse riding nearby , archery, golf, clay shooting etc and we didnít even see all of the grounds. But not enough time for this. If you have the time and money, an extra nightís stay there would be wonderful just to enjoy the castle and its facilities and relax after a busy week.

Dinner that evening was in an elegant private room with wine and an Irish guitarist serenading us courtesy of Disney. The meal was excellent from start to finish. We enjoyed the company of andreaj from this board and her family at out table. I hope my girls turn out to be nice teenagers like Andreaís kids! After this the guides showed us a presentation of photos from the week and we were a little choked up to say goodbye to these sweet, funny, warm youg women who had been beyond invaluable to every one of us the past week. I was sad to see it ending.

Day 8 Shannon: We had a 1:30 flight so did not have to rush in the morning which was really nice and stress free. Had breakfast, took a few more pictures , then at 10:30 said goodbye to Courtney and Sarah again and took the van to the airport. The airport is 10 minutes away, and not huge so it wasnít too crowded.

And just in case you regret not buying that sweater, crystal, jewelry or whatever, Shannon airport has a huge and very nice duty free shopping area!

In closing it was a magical week in an enchanting country surrounded by warm, friendly people. I ended up liking it just as much as Italy. I highly recommend it. It was pricey, but worth every penny and overall a good value given the level of service and accommodations we enjoyed. Plus, it was just a whole lot of fun!

bonnielynn 07-16-2008 08:51 PM

I would love to see photos.. :)

awatt 07-16-2008 09:12 PM

Photos may have to wait a week or so but I will try. i'm lleaving for anothe rtrip on Friday and packing again.

awatt 07-16-2008 09:21 PM

i tried to post a photo but was not successful. Will try again when I get back from my trip.

bonnielynn 07-16-2008 09:37 PM


Originally Posted by awatt (Post 26286974)
i tried to post a photo but was not successful. So here is a link to my album:

password is Meghan. Then click "slideshow"

It asks for an email.. I will just wait until you get back.. thanks!

awatt 07-16-2008 10:16 PM


AndreaJ 07-16-2008 11:04 PM

awatt - thanks for your nice comment about our kids! It was great getting to know your family on this trip! Hope your MIL is doing better. I hope the rest of your summer is great - I know that ours is one that we will never forget! :)

Skylarr29 07-16-2008 11:35 PM

Your pictures are great and it looks like you had such a wonderful time.

Just a word of caution though, I would remove your personal infor ASAP as anyone who goes to look at your photos can delete, edit, or remove entire albums as they have FULL access to your account that way. To share photos you select the photos to share, up to 250 and then email to yourself and you will get a link after that, that you can paste.:goodvibes

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