Friday, September 11, 1998
I awoke Friday feeling wonderful. The sky was bright with no clouds in sight. After breakfast, we said our good-byes to Evelyn. If you are ever near Limerick be sure to book a room at Avondoyle. You will not be disappointed.
The first stop today was King John's Castle. This impressive castle is located in the heart of Limerick. There is an interesting museum and the omnipresent video. The video was a little too lengthy and the acting was over dramatic but informative. There really isn't much to the castle. The most interesting part is underground where you can view the excavations being made of several homes and other structures that predate the castle.
I understand that during the summer months there are people stationed around the castle in period costume. They act as if they are in the 1600s and explain what type of work they are doing. There was only one person doing this while we were there. This was the coin maker. When I walked into the room I thought he was a mannequin as there were others in the castle. Suddenly he starts talking to me. I think I jumped back two feet. He was demonstrating how coins were made in days gone by. You could buy one of the coins he made for .50 pence. So I bought Sallie and myself each a coin.
The Shannon River flows by the castle wall. We took pictures of the river with the many swans swimming by the bank. After visiting the gift shop we left for the Cliffs of Moher. I had wanted to go to the Hunt Museum which people told me not to miss - we missed. By heading north instead of south meant a major change in my itinerary.
I had originally wanted to leave Limerick and head back south to Killarney. The plan was to spend a day around Killarney and another day doing the Ring of Kerry and down to Dingle. The third day would be spent driving to Galway by the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren putting us in Galway late Sunday. After looking at the map I realized this wouldn't be practical. Why didn't we do the all of this before driving North to Limerick? The only night we could get reservations for the banquet was on Thursday leaving us little choice.
This change in the itinerary worked out great as it allowed us to be more spontaneous on the rest of the trip and not tied to a schedule. We made our way to the coast which we drove along until we reached the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are impressive. At the top near O'Briens Tower the wind was blowing so hard it was nearly impossible to walk. The most exciting part of the cliffs was watching the fools who would walk out to the edge to look over. I kept expecting the wind to shift and fling them to their deaths. In fact, one of the employees of the gift shop told me that this happens to at least once or twice a year.
From the Cliffs of Moher we drove through Lisdoonvarna where the annual Match Making festival takes place throughout the month of September. There were people everywhere and many cars parked along the road. It must be a popular event. We drove through the "Burren". This is an unique area of limestone. There is very little vegetation or water. Some General at some point in history said of the Burren, "There is too little water to drown a man, no trees to hang a man, and no dirt in which to bury a man." The rocks are full of deep crevices that are only a few inches wide. The area is supposedly honeycombed with caves. There are also many prehistoric sites located in the Burren. We did see a dolmen.
A dolmen is a "rock table." It consist of three rocks on which is propped a huge "table top" rock. In fact, dolmens are ancient grave sites. Originally the space beneath the table is where a person would be buried. Small stones were then piled around the entire table forming a rocky mound. This was later covered by dirt.
The reason that only the "table" portion remains is due to recycling. The historians claim that people in the community hundreds of years after the dolmen was originally built would use the small rocks to build their homes and walls. The large rocks were left in place because they were too big to readily move. This may make sense in some portions of the country but not in the Burren. The Burren is literally covered with rocks. Why would someone raid an ancient tomb when they could simply grab the rocks on the ground where they wanted to build and still have plenty left over?
The Burren is a marvelous, mysterious area that is definitely worth seeing. The Burren Center is only a gift shop and not worth the time driving there. From the Burren we made our way out to the main modern road that went North into Galway. I had called earlier and made us reservations at the Petra B&B.
This B&B was located in an older housing development. The house was clean and comfortable and the hostess was very nice. Sallie wasn't feeling well so she took a nap as Mom, Jody, and I drove into Galway for supper. We had to buy a "parking disc" to park in the city. The disk cost about .45 pence. To use the disk you scratch off the time that you parked and place it in your window. The disk is valid for an hour. We then walked down the street looking for some place to eat.
We finally stopped at the McSwiggans Pub. From the outside it looked small but inside was huge. We went up and down several flights of stairs until we found ourselves in the back. The restaurant had a very unique "driftwood" tree in the middle. I had chicken curry.
After dinner we hurried back to the B&B (after getting lost once or twice). I enjoyed watching the All Simpons Channel before going to bed.