Today we traveled to Killarney and went on a guided tour around the Ring of Kerry. It was cold and rainy when we left the villa and the weather forecast for the day was not very good. We thought it would be a good day to let someone else do the driving and learn a little more about this part of the country.
Our bus was leaving at 10:30 a.m. and we knew we should leave Adare by about 8a.m. in order to get to Killarney with some time to spare. For whatever reason, we were all awake early and left without an issue.
We pulled into the city of Killarney close to 9:30 a.m. and according to the GPS, were should have been able to find the address easily. The problem was we did not see any buses or parking lots at the address for the tour company. We drove around a little bit and then finally stopped at a small coffee shop to get directions. For a second we forgot this was Ash Wednesday, and we were in Ireland.
There were five to six middle-aged men sitting at some small tables, outside, in front of the cafe, and obviously they had been to church before they came over for a coffee and a smoke.
“I think they put ALL the ashes on that one’s forehead,” Teri said as we went past them and entered the shop. He did have what appeared to be a four inch smudge of black and gray ash running from one side of his head to the other.
Despite our grand entrance we got directions and headed back to find the tour company. It turns out that the bus company leaves each day from a personal residence. We parked around back, behind the house, and took our belongings as we headed for the bus. There were only six people on the bus (think Maine-Line tour bus) when we boarded, and then suddenly, a little stocky man with a tweed hat and a bald head bounded up the steps after us and climbed into the driver’s seat. We were off.
We did stop at two hotels along the way and picked up about 30 other passenger for the tour. I think the average age of the additional passengers was close to 65. It was fun to be the youngest on the bus.
Our first official stop was at an small village that replicated Irish life during the 1800s. It was interesting, but perhaps the highlight of this stop was the cafe that was connected to the village. They were famous for their version of an Irish Coffee, and because we had purchased a tour ticket, it was supposed to be part of the experience.
So, why not. At close to 11 a.m. we sat by the small fireplace in the cafe and sampled the drink. It was delicious, but Teri was a little worried when she realized we were having a drink so early in the morning.
Phil reminded her that the tour guide said it was part of the trip, so we should try them. He was right – they were warm and just about the best coffee we had ever had.
We laughed when we thought about the six or eight other stops that were planned for the rest of the trip.
The bus left the village and then proceeded to follow the southwestern coast of the country. The color and smell of the Atlantic reminded us of home but the temperature was far more temperate, even in February. One of our stops was in the small seaside town of Waterville. Apparently, Charlie Chaplin owned a home there and spent many summers in this part of Ireland.
Bobbie was really excited when she saw we were going to be near the beach; she wanted to collect a small batch of sand for one of her sisters. The bus slowed as it pulled into the town, but because of the rain, it didn’t look like it was going to stop.
“Hey, hey, hey,” she said in a louder and louder voice. The older crowd sitting near us looked a little nervous as she continued.
“John – I thought we were going to stop,” she said. John, our driver, looked in the mirror at her and saw she was serious. The bus slowed and pulled to the curb. Bobbie bounded from her seat with a makeshift container and ran toward the shore.
Score one for Bobbie.
We left the town and the bus headed toward the mountains that surrounded the sea. To say it was foggy would be an understatement. We knew we were climbing through the hills because occasionally there was a break in the clouds and you could seen down into the valleys that lined the road.
As the bus struggled to continue climbing, it became a little unnerving to look out the window and simply see a wall of white. We knew that just beyond the two foot high rock wall outside the window there was a 2,000 foot drop, but we didn’t see it. All the while, our driver John O’Neill, was filling us with Irish jokes and history lessons. Next stop lunch.
We spent our lunch at the top of the mountain looking at the mist and wondering if the sun was going to come out. It did not. We climbed onto the bus and traveled down the mountain again and into Killarney National Forest.
The landscape was beautiful and we stopped to walk through and look at a waterfall within the park. The naturally rainy climate and mist from the falls helped create a green blanket of moss on most of the surfaces. The trees, the rocks, nothing was left uncovered.
From there it was a short distance to the car, but we had one small problem. About halfway between Adare and Killarney the wipers on the car stopped working and it looked like the rain was going to continue all night.
We called Dan Doolin rental service and explained the problem. The nice woman on the phone (Helen) told me that she would wait for us at the Kerry airport and we could get a new car. Phil, Teri and Bobbie were somewhat impressed that I could talk to them on the phone, drive on the other side of the road, and listen to the GPS all at the same time.
We made it to the rental car agency before 5 p.m. and traded our Ford Focus (Dan Doolin – Level 5 Car) for a new Ford Medano (Level 10 on the Dan Doolin vehicle scale). The new car was roomy, rode easily along the sometimes rough roads, and had a better sound system. Phil popped in our new CD of Irish favorites and to the strains of Irish Rover, we drove back to Adare.
Dinner was again, one of the highlights of a long day. We had simple but delicious food at Pat Collins Pub and then listened to some local musicians for about an hour. We laughed together, told some inappropriate stories, and then headed for home.
Tomorrow we may go back to the Killarney National park and hike through the mountains. It really was spectacular. On Friday, we are planning to go to the Doolin area and spend time at the Cliffs of Mohr, the Bern, and in Doolin itself. I have a feeling we will end up at O’Connors listening to music and telling stories about Magnum bars and the people we miss.
I hope you like the pictures from today.