Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Entry 4: Heading up the coast to Galway

We left Dingle on a particularly foggy morning and drove north through Tralee and caught the ferry from Trabert across the mouth of the Shannon River.  From Trabert, we drove along the west coast, stopping in Lehinch for lunch.

This little beach town seemed like a good place to spend a little bit more time.  It had some of the same, laid back beach feel of Long Beach or some similar Pacific Coast town, except with Gaelic signs and a lot more pubs.  I had fish and chips with a local fish out of the Irish Sea--Hake.

Our next stop was supposed to be the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most famous sights on the island.  The fog had other plans.  After driving through several places that sounded like stops in Tolkien's Middle Earth, we began winding uphill toward the cliffs.  The fog got thicker and thicker.  By the time we reached the park's ticket gate and parking lot, visibility was less than 50 yards.  At what I am told is the edge of the Cliffs, we couldn't even see the edge.  The postcards in the gift shop were pretty....

After giving up on the Cliffs, we meandered our way through the Burren...

stopped at Dunguaire Castle...

then drove through Galway to check in at our B&B in Salthills.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Entry 3: Connor Pass and Dingle's Food & Wine Festival

Our second day in Dingle was divided between two distinct activities. The first was a drive to the top of Connor Pass. The first 75% of the drive was calm and peaceful, the last 25% was a bit hair raising--single lane, sharp turns, and a cliff edge. I drove there and Isaac drove back. I'm still not sure if it was scarier as the passenger or the driver. Thankfully, the trip was worth it. The view from the scenic pull-off was quite nice, but the real treat was the perfectly calm lake we happened upon above the lookout. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

We spent the second half of the day at Dingle's Food a Wine Festival. I love festivals so it was a welcome surprise to see the signs around town when we arrived on Thursday. The concept was simple. Purchase a passbook with twenty tickets and then use the guide map restaurant descriptions to decide where to use them. Here's a list of what we ate:
  • The Little Cheese Shop: Ras
  • Paul Geaney's: Gourmet burger
  • The Dingle Pub: Steamed mussels with wine, garlic and cream
  • Happy Garden Place: Soup and a spring roll
  • Finn McCool's Surf Shop: Aussie BBQ (Kangaroo)
  • O'Cathain's Fish Shop: BBQ'd prawns and scallops
  • Chowder Cafe: Seafood chowder and pan fried mackerel on a warm potato salad
  • Waterside Restaurant: Suckling Pig
  • Fish at the Marina: Teriyaki salmon skewers and warm sake shot
  • Novecento Gourmet Shop: Pizza
  • Adn Danlann Gallery: Fudge
  • Courtney's Bakery: Confectioneries
    Isaac enjoying suckling pig (note the pig in the background)
Melted Raclette cheese, crunchy skin and all!    
The melt above was created with the contraption in the middle of this picture.  The cheese is placed under the horizontal metal bar that melts the top layer with a propane flame.  The melted cheese is then scraped onto a piece of bread.  Yum!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Entry 2: Touring the Dingle Peninsula

Friday, September 30th

Having paid for breakfast as part of the B&B price really helped me get up in the morning--that, and serious jet lag confusion.  Bacon in Ireland is a lot thicker, saltier, and tastier than generic American bacon.  It's more like 1/8" thick slabs of ham...

Downtown Dingle
Dingle Farmer's Market provided bread, scones, and a locally made cream cheese for lunch.  We then set out on "The Dingle Loop", as recommended by our travel guru, Rick Steves.  (It felt really weird to keep mentioning what "Rick recommends..." the whole trip, so we alternatively referred to him as "Mr. Steves", "Steve-O", "Señor Steve", etc.)  Being our first day in country, we did make on rookie mistake, and paid for admission to the "Famine Cottage".  The road signs looked so official that I didn't think to ask "What would Rick do?" and check his book for guidance.  Instead, we paid a lot for a moderately informative but poorly maintained private site.  For example, check out my Facebook photos for an "informative" sign about a random pet deer.  What is s/he doing next to a famine cottage in Dingle? I don't know, 'cause the writing faded off this sign in the 90s!  (I tried to post the photo here, but Andrea said to keep my dumb deer photo off the blog.)

View from Slí Cheann Sléibhe
After our detour at the famine cottage, touring the Dingle Peninsula is amazing!  The views are stunning.  This stark landscape of steep mountainside farms and grass-covered cliffs is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.  If trapped at home, you can use your local library or Netflix account to get peeks at Dingle in a bunch of Hollywood movies.  Ryan's Daughter is the big classic.  In the opening scenes of Far and Away, a youngish Tom Cruise fights with his brothers on a Dingle hillside.

Coumeenoole Beach
I had my first Irish coffee at Tig Slea Head on a cliff overlooking Coumeenoole Beach.

We stopped at one of the older sites on the island--the Gallarus Oratory.  It's name, in Irish, means "The Church of the Place of the Foreigners", its built only of stone, and it's thought to date back to sometime between 600-900AD.  There were no pews, no art, and I'm guessing the builders of this church would have considered an ideal attendance to be in the range of 8-10 people.

*Not Grass*
While trekking through some sort of unnamed bog on the peninsula, I sat on what looked like lush green grass only to find out that there is apparently some sort of Irish cactus.  I have recovered.

For dinner, we took advantage of the "early dinner" (read: jet lagged tourist) menu at The Chart House in downtown Dingle.  It was very nice, and neither of us fell asleep in our food. In fact, we even managed to go back to Murphy's Pub to listen to live Irish music.