Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Ireland adventures

30 April

In the Hills - Clogheen
For over two centuries, the town known variously as Queenstown, Cove or Cobh has experienced a maritime history to rival far better known ports such as New York and Southampton. As we arrived, just after lunchtime today, the enormous cruise ship, the “Celebrity Eclipse” arrived in the ancient port known today by its Irish name of Cobh. Just as generations before them, the good folk of Cobh were out in the warm sunshine to welcome the “boat”in.

Hopefully, when the “Celebrity Eclipse” leaves, it will have a safe passage, unlike mega cruise ships of the past. Cobh was the last port of call for both the Titanic and the Lusitania which sank out in the Atlantic on their passage to America.
Most of the ships leaving Cobh managed to reach their destinations, though some were a long way from the luxury cruise ships of today. Irish convicts bound for Australia walked the wharves we walked to day, as did millions of Irish immigrants bound for better lives in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
When their “Boat came in” today, hundreds of the good citizens of Cobh made their way down to the wharf. Families were waving, hawkers were selling and kids on holidays were showing off for the thousands of tourists flooding down the gang-planks.
The traffic is reversed for a while as the tourists spilled into Cobh. Who knows what will happen now as Ireland works to recover from a financial crisis that has seen it's economy 'bailed-out' by her European neighbours. Perhaps, yet another wave of emigration will see young Irish men and women yet again seeking their fortunes overseas.
Last night we stayed with Eamonn and Joan, at Strands End House, about 5 minutes along the Killarney Road from the charming town of Cahersiveen. Their B&B is a real Irish experience. All the excellently appointed rooms have en-suites, a welcome change from the days of shared bathroom facilities, that has brought B&B rooms like those offered by Eamonn and Joan, up to the sort of standards offered by hotels or motels. But Strands End House offers far more than all this. A warm welcome and taxi service to and from town for dinner , if you wish, is topped off by the stupendous Irish breakfast, which almost stopped us – but not quite! We love our food.

2 May Dublin
The Celtic Tiger days have changed Dublin significantly since our last visit 10 years ago. Then, the caravan park we are staying at, (the same one as on our first visit) was on the fringes of the city. Several kms of industry have sprung up beyond the park, a modern motorway system has been built around the city and new rail and tram systems are up and running. Other things tick on just as we remember them. The same bus pulls into the caravan park at the same time bound for the city. Last time we took this bus, it was snowing and blowing a gale. Flurries of snow were blowing into the bus. So unpleasant was the trip that the driver refused to take our money. Today there was bright sunshine and a bit of a breeze, so they did charge for the trip!
A couple of hours strolling around the central city and a visit to the national gallery was all we managed before our lunch date with the Irish clan of the partner of our younger son. That was that for the day, 'den'. After a long lunch with some charming new friends, it was time to jump the bus home. What a great way to spend the day.
Our run of good weather has indeed been record breaking. The UK has just experienced the hottest April and the driest March in over 50 years. Bush fires have broken out all over the country and in Ireland some rivers have dried up. All this after one of the most bitter winters recorded. What next?

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