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Thursday, September 10, 1998

We were all tired of the Full Irish Breakfast so we each asked for fruit and yogurt for breakfast. That is what we got. A small container of yogurt and a banana. The only good thing about this B&B was that we were out by 8:30 a.m. the next morning and were first in line to get into Blarney Castle.

As soon as the gates opened we made our way for the castle. Then there is a spiral staircase that seems to go forever....take a deep breath.....just a few more steps. I knew I would be the first to the top as no one could get by me. We arrived at the top of the castle just as they were washing down the Blarney Stone.

To kiss the Blarney Stone you lie on your back, scoot back over a 100 foot drop to the ground, put your hands over your head and grab the metal bars, lean backwards, shut your eyes, pucker up, and smootch - no tongue please. At this point you are very dizzy. You stand-up and try not to trip and fall to your death into the inner portion of the castle. I am proud to say each of us kissed the stone - even Mom who swore she wouldn't. One piece of advice, remove everything from all your pockets before attempting this death defying feat.

We then explored the rest of the Castle. As we were leaving they were opening a gift shop at the base of the Castle. A lady was moving a large rotating rack of postcards out of a storage closet and down a ramp. The next moment the rack was falling to the ground and postcards were flying everywhere. I rushed over and righted the rack for her while Sallie grabbed as many postcards as she could before the wind blew them away.

At the bottom of Blarney Castle is the dungeon and a cave. Neither of these have lights. If you have the foresight take a flashlight with you if you want to explore them at all. There are also extensive gardens around the castle.

I was more impressed with Blarney Castle that I thought I would be. The grounds are beautiful and the castle is interesting. I also enjoyed crossing the Martin River as we approached the castle. The crowd was also very sparse. I am sure during the latter part of the day it can become very crowded. As always, if you can arrive somewhere early it is usually more enjoyable.

From Blarney Castle we decided to visit Blarney Woolen Mills. Not sure where it was located we drove out of a perfect parking spot to find that it was right across the street. Fortunately, a spot on the street was open so we pulled in and parked not 20 yards from where we had been.

Blarney Woolen Mills is a huge gift / clothes / pottery / winery / crystal / etc. store. Thanks to Sallie and Jody we spent nearly two hours shopping (we only spent an hour at Blarney Castle.) The stores were also much more crowded than the castle. I counted 20 or more tour buses parked in the lot. We eventually departed with several bags of gifts (several hundred dollars disappeared in this tourist trap). Later, as we were driving down the road we found a 10% discount coupon which would have saved us around $40. We were mildly upset. So before you go look through your tourist brochures and find those discount coupons.

We made a quick stop to get the clothes we had dropped off the previous night at a local laundry mat. They were washed, dried, and folded for about $10 USD. Next stop, Limerick. On the way to Limerick I ate some of the cheese and crackers I had purchased the previous day. An hour or so later I started to feel sick.

In Limerick we made our way to the Bunratty Folk Village. This is on the northwest side of Limerick on the way to the Shannon Airport. The Folk Village consist of actual buildings that have been relocated from all over Ireland. These range from a simple fisherman's home to a manor house to a small church. Each house is furbished with original furniture. And in many of the houses are actors playing the part of the owner. One section of the Folk Village contains a city street lined with period houses and small shops.

The Folk Village also contains a Pub which is opened late each night and Bunratty Castle. Bunratty Castle is completely restored and is used for Medieval Banquets daily. The Folk Village also host a nightly Folk banquet. Both the Medieval Banquet and the Folk banquet have Irish singing and dancing but of different styles.

I had made reservations for us for the Medieval Banquet nearly a month in advance. The cost was 32 ($50 USD) each. While this is costly it was very entertaining and a whole lot of fun. If you are going to be in this area of Ireland you should try to attend one of these banquets. Just remember that you have to book your reservations way in advance. There are several other castles besides Bunratty that host these banquets.

We went ahead and toured Bunratty Castle. You can only visit the castle until 4 p.m. each day as they close it to prepare for the nightly banquets after that. And at the banquet you are unable to visit all the rooms so keep this in mind. We then walked around the Folk Village for an hour or so. By this time we were all weary and ready to just relax some. After visiting the gift shop, where I purchased several souvenirs including a bottle of Mead, we made our way across the street to Durty Nellys.

Durty Nelleys is a pub that was established in the 1600s. We went there to get a bite to eat as it was still several hours until the banquet. However, the upstairs restaurant was closed and all the tables downstairs were reserved. No one seemed to notice us wondering around so we left. Amazing they have stayed in business 400 years.

On the way to Avondoyle B&B we stopped at Boru's Pub. This was a very nice looking pub attached to a hotel. Inside they had a sandwich bar. For about 2 ($3 USD) you got a sandwich, slaw, potato salad, and several other vegetables. And for a 1.75 there was a delicious bowl of cream of broccoli soup and bread. Now I had been filling slightly nauseated for the past several hours but decided if I ate something I would feel better. I knew it was the cheese.

The soup went down smooth and comforting. I gave my sandwich to Sallie. Next stop Avondoyle. I had made our reservations for Avondoyle over the internet in early August. They have their own website. And Tom had made our reservations for us at Bunratty. I had emailed him my Visa Card number which he used to make the reservations.

As we were pulling into Avondoyle I announced I was going to be sick. Luckily there was a plastic bag nearby. The soup didn't taste as good going in the opposite direction. I sat in the car a few minutes to compose myself before going inside.

Evelyn was the perfect host. As soon as we came in Evelyn declared that the double bed in the room that Mom and I had was too small. Mom could use the bed in her son's room, who was off to college.

The rooms were beautiful and the house was magnificent. This ranks as one of my three favorite B&Bs in Ireland. From the window of our B&B room I could see several horses galloping around a field across the road.

I laid down to take a nap for a couple of hours before the banquet. Upon waking I quickly lost the rest of the soup but I was feeling better. It was time to get ready to go back to Bunratty. We had reservations for the second banquet (two nightly at 5:45 and 8:30). As we arrived and approached the castle we were greeted by a man playing a bagpipe. There were several torches lighting the outside of the castle.

As we entered the castle we were greeted by a lady giving out pieces of bread which were dipped in salt. This custom was to assure the visitor's safety while a guest in the castle. In the upper hall we were entertained by harp and violen accompanied by singing. They also served glasses of mead to all the guest. Their was a troop of eight ladies who provided entertainment with their singing and also served the meals. Each was dressed in a Medieval outfit. There was also one man who was dressed in period costume and sang several songs. I noticed he did not serve any food.

The banquet was wonderful. The only silverware you were allowed was a knife. This meant that all food, including the soup, had to be eaten with your hands. There were several courses beginning with soup and bread. This was followed by ribs in a tasty sauce. Next came a shish-ka-bob with chicken and vegetables. There were also plates of fried potatoes and other vegetables from which you could help yourself.

The meal included all the red and white wine you could drink. They also had pitchers of water and something that reminded me of Tang. The food was all very good. Regrettably, due to my upset stomach I only tasted a little of each. Well, it gives me a good excuse to return. Throughout the dinner there was music and singing. It seemed as if everyone had a great time. Pictures were taken of everyone which you could purchase later. Ours came out so nice that we spent the 7 ($10 USD) and bought it.

Jody had a great time. Since I was unable to eat he had a hefty portion of food. A funny incident happened with the lady sitting next to Jody. He had been joking about the food and on the previous course as the plates were being passed down the table, he had taken the first one and then passed the others. During the next course as the hostess handed the plates to the lady next to Jody, she passed them across the table to me to pass down instead of giving them to Jody. She even called Jody by name with a funny remark. Oh well, guess you had to be there!

At the end of the meal we were entertained with several more songs. They then passed plates around that contained snuff. It was very minty and when you snorted it up your nose it had some hilarious results. Some people, such as myself, only took a very small dash. The more adventurous took a large amount and a large sniff. The looks on their faces were precious, followed by many large sneezes.

At the end of the banquet we went into a downstairs hall where hot tea and coffee were served (probably to get people sober). It was here that we purchased our photos. Jody enjoyed several glasses of wine so I decided I had better drive home. I would have tried some myself but, 1) I don't like wine and 2) I am allergic to wine. Now if they would have had Guinness.... Actually, I only had two beers on my entire trip...and that was more for the experience than the taste.

We soon arrived back at Avondoyle (after getting lost only once). It had been a long exciting (sickening) day. I actually had a fun time even with getting ill. I passed out on the extremely comfortable bed surrounded by five pillows and a heavy quilt. I have to find one of these quilts in the states for my bed. Many B&Bs had them. I would guess they would cost $150 to $200 each in the states.

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