Irish Eyes are Smiling ...
August 6, 2005 - Happy Birthday Ed - hope you enjoyed your special
Today, we left Dublin, and drove to the northwest of Ireland in County Donegal. We have never been to this part of Ireland before, and so far, it is really beautiful - right on the sea.
We are staying at a small country house hotel, in which, unfortunately, the room is a bit on the shabby side. But, as the proprietors' names are John and Nancy, and they have two black lab puppies named Zana and Zara, all is well! It's clean, and we will only be here for two nights, so it doesn't really matter too much. We also booked dinner in their restaurant, and it was absolutely gorgeous. We both had seafood chowder to start, which really, was a meal in itself. For the main course, I had salmon (locally caught, wild salmon - Jeremy, you would have LOVED it!) and Mark had chicken. Then, of course, we finished off with dessert, which just about finished us off! We have both decided that we are not booking into the restaurant tomorrow night - we just cannot eat like that two nights in a row. After dinner, we waddled up the stairs to our room to read, and to update this journal.
We spent the day exploring the area around Ardara. The scenery is truly spectacular. We started in the fishing village of Killybegs, one of the busiest fishing ports in Ireland. We were truly astounded by the size and the technical complexity of the trawlers. Continuing on around the coast road, we stopped at Glenncolmcille, where we had a pint in the local pub. We sat outside in the sunshine, and shared our picnic table with an English couple. We drove out to Silver Strand (beach), which is where the road ends, before making our way back to Carrick, and to Tellin to the viewpoint for Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
From Carrick, we drove back toward Ardara, and stopped off for a look at a waterfall. We continued our drive on a single-tract road to the strand and caves at Meghera. We walked about 3/4 mile over the sand dunes (magnificent!) to the strand, but we weren't able to locate the caves. Unfortunately, things aren't very well posted. (Subsequently we learned that they are only accessible during low tide, that being the reason we could not find them) After a brief look around the beach, we headed back across the dunes to the car and went into town for an early dinner. We had an after dinner drink at Nancy's bar, and enjoyed the evening sunshine. We are so far north that it doesn't get truly dark until about 10:00, so we try to make the best of the long days.
Nothing too exciting today, at about 11:00, we started the journey back to Dublin, which took a little over 5 1/2 hours. We took a more "scenic route" back using several single-tract roads along the way. Even on these really small roads it seems that you are never far from a house or a very, very busy small town, which seems odd considering that the population of Ireland is about half of what it was in the mid 1800s, before the famine. We can't imagine how many homes there must have been in that era of Irish history.
We got back to Dublin right at rush hour, so it took us an extra 30 minutes to get to our hotel - we are back at Bewley's in Ballsbridge. We got settled in and went out for a light dinner at a local Italian bistro.
Another gorgeous and sunny day here in Dublin - what is going on?! It must be Irish eyes smiling down upon us, as not only was the weather beautiful, but we were successful in getting our Russian visas!! We only had to wait for an hour to have them processed (we chose the same day service, which is normally Euro 100 for Irish citizens, but since we are Americans, we also had to pay a surcharge of Euro 10 - that's the Red, White and Blue for you!). So, we used the hour to go to a little cafe just around the corner from where we lived, and we had a late breakfast - a scrumptious bagel and egg sandwich with coffee.
Our visas were ready when we returned to the embassy and now we are all set for our trip in two weeks. Click on the visa above and you can see my name in Russian on the third line (on the same line as my name in the Roman alphabet). Mark thought that we should celebrate with a vodka, but we opted to stop at the launderette to do our laundry instead. We really know how to live! It didn't actually take that long to finish, less than 1 1/2 hours (we decided on self-service, since one of my new Ann Taylor T-shirts was ruined by the first launderette), after which we were free to really celebrate. So, we came back to the hotel and went down to the courtyard for a celebratory drink in the afternoon sunshine. We shared a pub meal for dinner and then just returned to our room to make some more post-Russia travel arrangements.
August 10, 2005
The rental car was due back at the airport today, so we dropped it off this morning and took the Aircoach bus back to the top of Grafton Street. Mark wanted to shop for a polo style shirt and then we had lunch at Little Caesar's Pizzeria (not the American chain). We stopped in at the Kilkenny Design Center, which features Irish products like crystal, glass, pottery, linens, etc. I could have bought numerous items, but I don't want to have to deal with shipping, so I refrained from making any purchases. We did however, go to the bookstore and bought a travel guide to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Then, we just meandered back to the hotel - it's about a 40-minute walk. Mark is racing to finish reading Harry Potter this evening so that we can ship it home tomorrow with our excess clothes.
August 11, 2005
We went out today at lunchtime to ship the box home, and of course, the post office is closed at lunchtime. So, we went to a small Italian restaurant nearby for lunch and to wait until 2:15, when the post office reopened. We had a lovely lunch, but unfortunately, it started to rain just as we were finishing (we were sitting outside), so we scurried inside and had coffee while we waited out the rain. It was Euro 43 to ship the box, which weighed just 6 kg (12 lb.) - we thought this was outrageous, but we really didn't have any alternative, so away it went!
After we got rid of the box, we walked up to Grafton Street for a bit of shopping, and then back to our hotel. We discovered that Bewley's has a really nice business center with complimentary photocopies and printing for guests. We took advantage of the printing ability to print out our upcoming hotel and flight arrangements. I finished off the night with about 3 hours of work for LRG - that will pay for the upcoming weekend!
August 12, 2005
Today, we left Dublin for a weekend in Venice! Of all our previous trips to Italy, we have never gone to Venice before, and we are very excited to be in such a beautiful city. Our flight didn't arrive until almost 8:00 PM, so we had a bit of a wait for the next Alilaguna Shuttle (waterbus) to take us to our hotel. The journey took about an hour, so it was 10:15 by the time we checked in to the Hotel Ca' Formenta. Then, we immediately went in search of food - luckily, there is a bar right next to the hotel, and we were able to get a panini and foccacia with grilled vegetables. And, this is the best part - the red wine was chilled and on tap - is that cool or what? - I love Italy!!
P.S. Attached is a picture of our accommodations for the weekend - in our dreams, at least!! The MotorYacht "Larrisa" was docked just outside our Hotel. The next day the "SlipStream" tied up just behind the "Larrisa" - she was about the same size but painted black with gunmetal accents. The SlipStream was gorgeous, detailed down to the Wave Runners with matching black and gunmetal paint-job.