Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ireland Day 5: Ring of Kerry and Killarney

Woke up this morning in the Randles Court Hotel after a much needed deep sleep.  This hotel has long corridors with motion sensor lights, huge bathrooms, a sitting room at the entry and on the front patio overlooking a horse pasture and with a view of the mountains in the distance.  It does not however have a/c (which I've heard most of the hotels in this town don't) and it was a rather stuffy night. Mom and I got ready for the day and headed to breakfast in the hotel restaurant since it was included in the cost of our room.  Entry to the dining room was rather confusing as the buffet is right up front and there's no clear sign as to whether to help yourself or wait for a server.  So we stumbled to a table and waited for a server who eventually came and thought we were with a large tour group also staying here.  When we told him we weren't, he seemed flustered...anyway, moving on, he brought us menus and said we could order what we wanted.  So I ordered scrambled eggs and roasted tomatoes with the smoothie of the day and Mom ordered sausage and scrambled eggs...

Upon looking at the scrambled eggs I wasn't sure what to think...I wasn't freaked out that they were on bread, as I've done that before with my egg whites and Ezekiel toast, but what I was freaked out by was the consistency and color of them....so I peppered them and took a bite and promptly set my fork back down, not touching them again.....so then on to the smoothie...The waiter said it was an "asberry" smoothie...I'm guessing he meant raspberry?  Either way, it was nothing like a smoothie we have in the states.  While it may look delicious, it was incredibly sour.  Mom and I were both disappointed in our meals and will be eating elsewhere tomorrow morning on our way out of town.
Off we went to drive the Ring.  Today was my least planned day of the trip.  I figured we'd just stop at the sites that jumped out at us...I wanted it to be a calm, scenic day....Well turns out the weather wanted otherwise.  We headed counterclockwise on the Ring, and rain began to drizzle down and stayed that way until mid afternoon.  Our first stop was Ballycarberry Castle, built in the 1500s.  When mom and I pulled up we were the only ones there and were able to soak it in, but shortly thereafter several cars pulled in and it began to rain a little stronger. Mom, being the adventurous one, climbed up the tower.
Next we drove back the incredibly tiny one lane road to Staigue Fort, which is thought to have been built in 300 or 400 AD.  Over 40,000 sites in Ireland have been identified as stones forts.  40,000!!!! that is an incredible number....the history lover in me is now intrigued. 
After stopping at the fort we were pretty much ready to eat anything we could find since breakfast had been so lacking.  On we went to the tiny town of Sneem.  We ate at the Village Kitchen, both of us ordering vegetable soup as a side....Irish Vegetable Soup is nothing like we were thinking, being the assuming Americans that we are....It is cream based and really we couldn't see any vegetables in it.  It came with brown bread on the side, which I have to say, we've had better.  At this point I'm sure I'm sounding like a picky eater, but I'm really not...it was just a bad food day...because later on we ended up having amazing food...more on that in a few.
We hopped back in the car and I seemed to have forgotten the last 4 days of driving because I caught myself driving on the right side of the road as I would back home.  Quickly corrected it and drove on.  Silly foreigner!  We arrived at Torc Waterfall and I really wasn't sure what to expect since I have seen some great photos of it and some not so great.  We happened to get there at a good time when there weren't too many people yet, so we were able to take it all in.  Yes, it's a waterfall, but the difference is, it's an Irish waterfall!!!! 
We made the drive up to Muckross House to see if we wanted to stop there, but neither of us were feeling it, so we drove on to Ross Castle.  Absolutely beautiful view from there.  Of course I had to get the shot I've seen all over Pinterest of the canoes and boats in the water.  Turns out our hotel is only 1.5 miles from the Castle....more on this later.  After taking multiple shots of the castle we headed back to our hotel to freshen up and drop off the car.  Killarney Outlets here we come!  The Outlet mall isn't too far from the hotel so we walked up the couple of blocks...well, there was a Nike Factory store in it, so that was great for my fitness lovin heart, but beyond that, there was a whole lot of nothing....and I'm not exaggerating..the entire second floor of the outlet is empty.  So what do we do now? Do we go to a movie? Do we walk around town again?  We started walking through town and came to Killarney Royal Hotel...We had both said we were ready for some tea, so Mom saw on the menu outside that they had traditional afternoon tea for two.  Hooray!  I've never had this before so I was intrigued.  In we went.  Their afternoon tea is a carb lover's heaven, lemme tell ya!
It was absolutely delicious.  The funny thing is, the thing we liked the least was their choice of tea, even though it was still good!  After eating my fill of carbs *yep I gave in* we headed back to the streets of Killarney and decided to walk to St. Mary's Cathedral and get some photos since we had driven past it and thought it beautiful.  Mass was being held when we got there and something we noticed was that it was almost all elderly women in the congregation.  It was a very sweet moment to see them on their knees in prayer. While we are Christian and not Catholic, the churches here take us to a very peaceful place.
Near the church is an entrance to Killarney National Park so we headed into it to walk further.  Shortly inside the gate was a sign saying Ross Castle was 2.7 kilometers, so mom suggested we walk it.  I'm in!  By the time we got to Ross Castle, the sun was setting...let me say the pictures I got on my iphone (didn't take my Nikon with me) don't even do it justice. 
After admiring the view one more time we began the treck back to our hotel.  Another 1.5 miles.  It was a great walk altogether. According to my heart rate monitor (I wear it to work out and track my burn) I burnt 500 calories, so yay! Part of those carbs were put to use!
Tomorrow we venture the hour drive to Cork but will be stopping at Blarney and Barryscourt Castles.  Weather should hopefully be better than today!

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