Kissing Stones and Owls…

…I didnt finish a blog for yesterday, so this will encompass 2 days activities and excitement. Yesterday was all about the Blarney Castle and kissing the world famous Blarney Stone. We left Cork early so we could arrive at Blarney Castle before all of the tourist buses got there. And as it turned out, we made the right decision as by the time we were done (approx 2 hours total) there was an hour and a half wait to get up to the stone.

For those that don’t know how it works, the Blarney Stone is at the very top of Blarney Castle. You make your way to the top of the castle by way of a narrow winding stone staircase of about 120 steps. Once on top and at the stone, you lay down on your back, lean your head way back and slide out and kiss the famous stone. Of course, there are bars to hang onto and a gentleman making sure you don’t fall out of the hole!!

Then, you wind your way down the staircase and back at the bottom are many paths to walk and enjoy the beautiful grounds. For those that told us that Ireland was lush and green and gorgeous, they nailed it!!

After we were done at Blarney Castle, we hoped into our backwards car and traveled an hour and a half to the town of Killarney. It is a small town that is the center to a lot of activities – the Ring of Kerry, Ross Castle, Torc Falls, and the whole of the Killarney National Park. We are staying at the McSweeney Arms Hotel for tree nights on the tird floor. (I have fallen in love with the Irish accent!!).

McSweeney Arms Hotel in blue and red

The first thing that we did was find a place to eat, which ended up being Quinlans Seafood Bar, which had pretty good fish and chips. We had quizzed Kelly, our front desk girl, about restaurants and pubs, so we walked down the one main drag in town that everything is on to find our next place to eat and/or drink. Along the way we found an Arans Sweater Market, which is famous for wool sweaters, scarves, etc. (The only reason I know it’s famous is because Marilyn Dennis said so, or someone did. I don’t know the first thing about famous wool!). We stopped in a couple more shops along the way and then went back to our hotel for a little nap. As we had ate lunch so late, after our nap, we decided to check out Teddy O’Connors pub

on the recommendation of Kelly. It was another traditional Irish pub, just like Sin E in Cork, with a bartender named John. (Every guy here is either John or Michael). He made Michele an Irish Coffee and introduced me to Dingle Gin in my G&T.

Dingle is a place we are going to visit on Thursday and is known for its gin. After we had our drinks we stopped at another shop and then one more pub to have a bite to eat and a nightcap.

The night doesn’t end as a happy story though. It was at the last pub that Michele realized her credit card was missing. So instead of another G&T, we retraced our steps of the evening with no luck so we headed back up to our room to phone Mastercard. Once that was done we hit the pub in our hotel for some food and a drink and called it a night.

Wednesday we had a couple of excursions planned so we slept well, or at least I did. Our room is right on the corner of the hotel overlooking the main drag.

We had left the windows open all night and apparently the bar noise and traffic was loud and kept Michele up. Not good for her but I didn’t hear anything. Our first excursion wasn’t untill 11 am so we had breakfast at our hotel and then walked the block over to our meeting spot for our horse carriage jaunt to Ross Castle.

Our driver – Michael – was a very good host and took us on a trip through Killarney National Park to the Castle. He had a great banter and included a lot of interesting history along the way. We stopped for about 15 minutes at the castle

and then Judy, our horse, meandered us back to our hotel.

After a short rest at our hotel, we hopped in our still backward car and made our way to the event I was most looking forward to in Ireland – the Falconry Walk. We met John (see what I mean), he gave each of us what looked like a welding glove and he pulled Charlie, a Harris Hawk, out of his cage.

Right away he sent the hawk soaring and he told Michele to hold up her hand. She did and he put something on her thumb and there was Charlie, landing right on her hand and eating the treat John left for him. We walked for about half an hour through the woods with John alternating putting food on our hands and Charlie being right on the spot landing and eating. Throughout the walk, John gave us a great history and education on Falconry. At one point, Charlie took off after something, which ended up being a squirrel that he did not catch but it was neat to see him hunting anyway. We stopped at one spot and John got us to put our camera on slow-mo and then got Charlie to fly right at us. It is an awesome video!

When we got back to the van, Charlie was put away and Ryley and Ziggy came out, two different breed of owls. Michele had Ryley who was very affectionate and John captured the best moment of our trip!!

This is by far the coolest thing I have done and is a close second to the Changing of the Guards as best event on our trip so far.

Once we got back from spending time with John and friends, we headed to another pub for a drink (Ireland has made Michele a lush) and some food then went for a walk down the main drag again. This is where the sad end of our good day yesterday gets better. A guy comes running across the street aand says “you were at the International last night” which kind of freaked me out at first, then He continued “I was the bartender and you had told me you just lost your credit card. We found it! It’s at reception” We thanked him and went and picked up Michele’s card and were amazed that the bartender remembered us as we were walking down the street!

After a short nap, we headed back down to my favorite pub, O’Connors, and had a drink.

We got back to our room about 8 pm, nothing lost, nobody drunk, so the day was a success. As the last 2 days were more driving and riding than walking, the total number of steps for the 2 days was 24,000 or 17 km. Still not bad. Total km walked in 6 days is 60. Tomorrow we are going to the Dingle Peninsula.

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