August 09, 2003 GMT
Wales

Wednesday 23 of July
(writing this on August 9th2003)
Hello all and sorry for the delay.
We travelled from Chippenham to Carmarthen Wales today. We had many many types of rain all day. Misty, soft, pouring, soft, pouring and such. The temperature was cool at below 10 degres. We made it to a smallish town called Carmarthen and decided to stay two days to dry out and get organized. We are in an Inn above a pub (Patrick is happy) but again it's a bit pricy at £50.50 which includes breakfast. We are still in the land of British Pounds and have just closed our eyes to the costs.
We find a laundry the next morning and have all our clothes washed except the ones on our back. We were tempted to just stand there in towels and do everything but it wasn't that kind of town. We then headed off to the local library as the internet cafe wasn't working and would be off line for at least a week. FANTASTIC LIBRARY. So not only is everyone in Wales pretty gosh darn friendly, we spent about 3 hours in the library and had free fast connection to the internet. That's how we were able to update the story for the last week or so. Love Wales, love the library.
We head back to the Inn after a hot cup of coffee. I'm living in my fleece and even Patrick has his coat on.
It becomes Friday morning quite quickly and we are getting ready with our clean clothes and packing. (side note - having clean clothes was more exciting then Stonehenge - I know not what a traveller wants to admit but god, clean socks ....)
Friday morning it is pouring rain so hard that we were awake most of the night with it. We are watching the BBC news in Wales and they have put out a weather warning against driving..... that's not good.... flooding and the whole bit. We are actually only about an hour away from the ferry at Fishguard. We hang about the Inn and have our breakfast. At about 11:00 there is a break in the clouds and we run to the bike and head off. Slight rain but not too bad. Road traffic was light.
We make the ferry terminal but have missed the fast ferry. We end up on the slow one which will take about 3 1/2 hours and leaves at 2:00. To kill time we talk to a motorcyclist from Ireland who has just come off the other ferry. Lovely man and we had a nice chat. The ferry was £61.00 for 2 people and the bike. We didn't have a reservation but it wasn't busy at all so we had no problems getting on. I think if you have a car and book in advance you would get a better deal on the fare but I didn't see anything for motorcycles. We have to take the ferry again so I'll see what we get if we book in advance.

We get across to the Motherland as we call it. (Ireland). My mother is from there and I carry an Irish passport as well. Beautiful sunshine greats us. Off the ferry to find the tourist info.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 12:35 PM GMT
Ireland- Arklow

Friday July 25th

We find the tourist bureau quit easily. ( a first, and an excellent sign for us). It's already almost 7:00 at night and of course we have not made any lodging arrangements. So we head into the office and the nice lady says yes she can get us a B and B for €40 euros. GREAT back on budget, lovely sunshine, and feeling like we are at home. Oh, I'm sorry, what was that? Here in Ireland I would like to report that B and B's are per person so we were looking at €80 per night. So I explain that we are looking for €40 in total. That's not going to happen she says. So we start around the €27 per person per night and everyone is full or only has one night. Patrick and I are exhausted and want to settle down for 3 days. We need to meet our dear friend Louise in Dublin on the Monday so we thought we could take a little holiday from the holiday so to speak. So of course we end up in a hotel in Arklow. Now Arklow is not the friendliest, nicest spot in the world. Why the tourist bureau sent us there we will never know. Our cousins, once we get a hold of them, are also wondering how we ended up there.
We end up getting a special at this hotel for 3 nights. It's a B and B type thing, and one dinner included. Technically the 3rd night is free. Total cost (we are never lasting a year) €358.
The hotel although it was a 3 star and was very clean and had everything you could want had awful service and was very overbearing. We were happy to leave. On our days there we travelled down to the beaches. They were beautiful sandy beaches and the weather here has turned quite nice, sunny and warm.
The driving has been pretty easy but boy when they say the roads are narrow, they are NARROW. I was hit by many a branch going through them.

The scenery here is absolutely breath taking. So many shades of green you can't really explain it. The traffic is busy but they all move off to the left for the motorcycle to pass. Patrick is in heaven.

We find a great grocery store called Tesco and buy some soup, bread and such and head back to our hotel room. We sneak up the stove and heat up dinner. Best we've had in days. There is a big hurling match going on so we happily watch that in our room and have drinks and update our diaries.

We start checking the maps as we getting ready to head to Dublin. We booked a hotel on the internet while in Wales and ended getting the Comfort Inn on Talbot Street, which is just down from the main shopping road. We booked through www.laterooms.com and got the room for €69.90 per night for 4 nights. Not great but seeing some of the other prices, not bad. The regular rate for the hotel was €120.
So we are ready for a good night sleep and to head into another big city....

Posted by Danette Harkness at 12:57 PM GMT
Dublin

Monday July 28th

We head in to Dublin from Arklow. The weather has turned and it is damp and rainy.

The signs are good on the highway and we end up at St Stephen’s Green quite nicely. However our hotel is across the river from St Stephen’s Green. We should have stayed in St Stephen’s Green.

There is a lot of roadwork going on in Dublin and the street signs are located on the side of buildings. You can’t see the road signs until you have already passed them. Also some of these signs are covered by dirt or vines. How the locals get around is beyond me. So we start to get quite lost. To make a long story short it took us an hour to get to our hotel. In reality it would have been a 10 to 15 minute drive with traffic from St Stephen’s Green. There are lots of one way streets and heavy traffic but the real issue was not being able to read the street signs. Also it would be prudent for me to point out that the street names change while you are going down the street. So, the street starts off being called Jones Street, then turns to Mary Street then to John Street. The street is straight, no turns, nothing to indicate a new road……We are happy to park the bike for 4 nights and walk around the town. Very happy.

The hotel has secured parking behind an electronic gate and is included in the room rate. The bike is filthy and needs a good wash but we will deal with that later we think.

We meet our dearest friend Louise at our hotel at 5:00 and have – yes you guessed it DRINKS. We haven’t seen each other in over a year so it was lucky that we could make this happen. She was sort of in the area for a family wedding and had flown over from Toronto to the North of Ireland.

We have 4 days of great fun and walked our feet off. I must admit that we felt a little old down in the Temple Bar area and such. (we are in our thirties). Temple Bar and the downtown section we were in off Grafton Street were pretty much busy all the time. The pubs all seemed pretty full and it didn’t matter that it was a Monday or Tuesday night. We saw the highlights but Dublin is really a city you can see in about 2 days.

On the Wednesday we start to feel a little exploring is in order and head out on the Dublin subway system to a place called Howth. GREAT LITTLE FIND. It’s a nice fishing village right on the coast. We have a nice pub lunch and then head off to find Louise some cliffs to take pictures of.

We end up on a cliff walk around the coast that is fabulous. The views are breathtaking and again the shades of green are amazing. Oddly, we end up coming out of the cliff walk into subdivision and on someone’s driveway. So we head up the hill to try and find a cable car that will supposedly take us back to the subway station. (we’ve walked for a couple of hours by this point). We end up stopping a local and asked her for directions. We were told that the cable car was a) a bad mistake for the city to put in and b) hasn’t been working since the 1960’s. We would like to point out that the cable car route is advertised on the Tourist Map on the cliff walk. Don’t always believe what you read.

We end up taking a local bus into the next town and jumping on the subway. A full day of walking and touring for everyone.

Overall, Dublin is an expensive place. Dinners were expensive and we tried to eat in reasonably priced places. Beer is quite pricey and so was the wine. We tried to keep some of the costs down by going to bakeries for pastries and coffee for breakfast and usually we didn’t have lunch just a snack and then dinner. Even in Arklow, we found it expensive to eat and drink.

We are lucky that my cousin, Danielle is going away on vacation and has offered us her house in Cork for 3 weeks. God bless Danielle. This should get us back into budget and give us a chance to relax. We leave on Friday the First for Cork…….

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:22 PM GMT
August 26, 2003 GMT
Cork - general

From Tuesday August 5th until Friday the 8th we are struck down by the flu which we think we caught in Dublin. We are completly knocked out and the weather of course is perfect, sunny and warm with a slight breeze. The only good thing is that we have someplace to stay so we don't have to worry about being on the road.

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:32 PM GMT
Cork - back on the road

Saturday the 9th

We are not 100% but we are going stir crazy and take a short ride out to Cobh (pronounced Cove). It is a small sea side town that has a huge history. Cobh was one of the main habours from where thousands and thousands of Irish made the trip over to America, Canada and Australia during the Famine years. The town has a very good museaum and is a lovely spot to just walk around. Again it is sunny and warm, a perfect riding day.

Monday to Friday

We are felling slightly better each day and start going out on day trips. We have gone to: Kinsale, Oysterhaven, Cashel, Cahir, Knockmealdown mountains, Tallow, Blarney, Mallow and Burnfoot. The best roads for the motorcycle end up being route R 665 through the Knockmealdown Mts. Not a lot of traffic and great curves. The road surface is little on the rough side and you never know when you are going to hit a bump, pothole or come across a big tractor coming right at you around the corner so you do end up driving around at a much lower speed.

I should probably add some things here about the general driving around Ireland. First thing is that the road signs for distance are in KM's but the speed signs are in MPH. BUT if you hit an old road sign the distance on that is also probably in MPS unless stated on the sign that it is in KM's. There is currently a huge amount of road construction going on and you often hit apon it when you least expect it on some small side road. The road signs are very good for both directions and upcoming things on the road whether it be a hotel or gas station coming up or somthing on the road itself. I have noticed though that when the sign is no longer needed or acuarate that the sign stays up. So - gas station next exit open - and then you drive by and it has been closed for at least 5 years......

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:51 PM GMT
Cork

Friday August 1st
Well we safely made it down the road from Dublin and made it to Cork. The roads were quite busy as we did this on a Friday afternoon.
We make it into Glounthaune just outside Cork and call my cousin Paula. She is absolutely fabulous and drives down to the shop we were at so that we wouldn't get lost up to her house. We haven't seen each other in 17 years if you can believe that !! Anyway we relax with her and our other cousin Jason and his wife Sinead and meet some of our new cousins (all the children) and have a good all catch up session.
Then it is off to our next cousin’s house, Danielle's, as this is where we will be staying for the next 3 weeks. Danielle and her two children are off to West Cork which is a beach resort on the coast. Again more catch up and a few drinks and the next thing we know it's after one o'clock in the morning.
Saturday morning is again sunny and warm as it really never rains in Ireland. We have hit the best weather they have had in about 7 years. Danielle and kids head off on their vacation and Patrick and I start to unpack and do laundry. Again I am amazed at how excited we are at the thought of doing laundry.

Paula and her husband Declan then pick us up that night and take us into town for dinner. We have a great Italian meal and then head back to the local. The local we are discovering is what you call the pub that you would normally go into on a regular basis. Patrick is in heaven and would like to have his own local. The pubs here are so different from home. You are almost expected once you get to the pub to sit there until closing time. It's like being in your friends’ living room. Anyway, we eventually get home and get to sleep in the next morning for the first time in weeks.

Sunday August 3rd.
Huge excitement. We are going to our first hurling match with Paula and the children. We have Connor who is 11, Ciara who is 8, Brian who is 6, and Paula, Patrick and myself. (We had to leave Cillian the 2 1/2 year old at home with his dad) The kids play hurling themselves so we got the rules of play from them while watching the game. We have a fantastic time. Hurling is a great game that is fast and entertaining. The crowd was all into the game and of course it is another warm sunny night in Ireland.
We've decided that night when we go home that we are just going to steal Paula's kids instead of having our own as they are all such great lads and we are having such fun with them.

Monday August 4th
One of Paula's friends has given us a call because he has something to show us. His name is Martin and he rides a Harley Davidson. We are intrigued by this and Martin doesn't tell us really what we are going to be doing. We end up grabbing Declan, Ciara myself and Patrick and following Martin down over to Little Island which is about 15 minutes from where we were. We end up in a sub division of houses. All of us in the car are going what in the world are we doing here. Martin stops his car and we park behind him. He gets out and says follow me. So off we go into the back yard of an overgrown house and lot. We are still unsure why the heck we are here. When we get to the back of the house, we meet up with some men from an auction house who are cataloging the house. He says to us just go and walk around in the house and the out buildings. Well you can not imagine the shock. There are motorcycles there from the early 1900's to the 1950's and they are all over the place. There were probably at least 50 motorcycles there in various conditions from good to parts bikes. He had some of the first motorcycles ever made in the house and an old BMW in one of the out buildings. We are standing there in shock; it was just the most amazing site. So apparently Martin's uncle was the owner of the house and the bikes and had been collecting the bikes for years. The uncle had passed away and now the estate was trying to deal with all these motorcycles. It was truly something you do not see everyday.......

Posted by Danette Harkness at 01:57 PM GMT
Cork last week


August 18th to the 22nd

We've just come back from visiting Danielle in a place called Crookhaven and are back in Cork for a few days. The West of Cork has a very different look about it from the rest of the county. It is more rugged and almost everywhere you look there is a fantastic view.

The roads were good and we took side roads back up to Cork that didn't have a lot of traffic on so Patrick was able to motor on very nicely at his own speed.

We spend most of the week with Paula, Declan and the kids and have great fun. I highly recommend when you travel to look up your family for us it has been one of the greatest things about this trip.

We are on our way to County Kerry on Friday to meet up with my Uncle Brian. We will head for a lovely little place called Tralee......

Posted by Danette Harkness at 02:06 PM GMT
Tralee

Friday the 22nd of August

As we drive along from County Cork into Country Kerry I can understand why everyone says you must must must go to the west. We cross the county line and are immediately faced with beautiful mountains covered in mist and curvy roads. It's a short journey of about 2 hours taking the direct route. ( we left late this morning due to a rather long dinner with family that involved a few bottles of wine...so no one was moving quickly today....)

We get into town and call up my uncle. He drives down to meet us so again we don't get lost in the city. We are taken to his house which is only blocks from downtown and is the perfect base. Marge, his partner, meets us at the door and again we are welcomed with great Irish hospitality. We have dinner and start to just talk away when we hear booming in the distance. We all jump up and head outside - fireworks - . We of course think they are for us but really it's the start of the Rose of Tralee festival here. It's going to be a great week !!!

Posted by Danette Harkness at 02:14 PM GMT
 
 

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