Stranraer -> Belfast -> Dublin…and more

20 April

9:35 and we are off, heading to Belfast.  This is a much smaller ferry than Jameson and I were on in ’08.  The StenaPlus (you pay extra for this) is much smaller, not as grand a view as on the big ship.  Shucks. Oh, well.  I might go downstairs and see if that one is any better (thought the upper deck would provide a better view, but wenches are in the way.  Perhaps I’ll go out on deck first.  Jacket will be needed — I see people out there and one lady’s hair is blowing pretty good.  We’ll see — I have three hours to check things out.

Didn’t sleep that well last night — mattress was a wee bit lumpy (an inner spring mattress), but mostly because I didn’t want to oversleep & miss my taxi, so I kept waking up — lol.  Coveting horizontal surfaces (none anywhere to be seen, except the floor & I don’t think that would be acceptable)…

Just saw what I guess is the Brit’s version of Regis & Kathy (or whoever his current “co-anchor” is…) — morning talk show that hosts celebrities, etc.  They had some interesting people on this morning:  young man named Milos that plays an amazing guitar — I’ll be looking for his music when I get home; the star of a new movie, Beastly (updated & probably PG or R rated version of Beauty & the Beast).  I’ll have to do a little research, but I think I may go see this one.  The actor, after finishing the move, had a whole new view of people with deformities (after playing the part — and going out during break, still in his makeup); and a star that is hosting two shows — one a documentary of newly found family members (adoptive children looking for birth parents or family members, families that have been separated for decades, etc) — neat.  They are able to do a more exhaustive search where the individuals have failed.  The other is a game show…ho-hum.

12:55pm
So, I have about 45 minutes before my train boards…not enough time to look around the city and almost too much time to just sit.  But, Belfast is extremely smoggy — reminds me of LA (not a good thing), plus the exhaust in the taxi needs work!  At first I thought it was the “fresh air” I was smelling — but once I got out, wasn’t so bad…no wonder he kept opening his window wider!  LOL!  Not a very chatty fellow, either.

Guess I could take this time to get a bite to eat, but it looks very “fast food”-ish…not terribly appealing.  Ah!  I keep forgetting I have a few bits in my “kitchen” bag ^,^ : nice fresh orange or two, bread & some jam that I nicked from my last accommodation (I paid for it, so guess I didn’t really nick it, did I?)  So, I’ll enjoy some fruit & a wee bit of bread w/jam.

Ah…refreshed!  And now, on my two and a quarter hour train ride.  A cutie across from me (love it when I’ve got a youngster across from me — so far they have been very well behaved.  This little lassie is about three or four.  She and her mum are going to Limerick Junction — off at Dublin station, switching to another station, then on in their travels.

Saying farewell to Belfast — it’s started to clear already!  I can see the haze in the distance.  Sorry, I’m sure there’s beautiful stuff to see, but I just couldn’t handle the smoggy city.  Balmoral is beautiful!  Just passed an old graveyard–I like them for some reason.

Oh, dear.  Lovely young lady just sat across from me…Why is it women feel they must take a bath in perfume.  My eyes are now quite itchy.   I may have to move if she doesn’t get off soon.  Arg.

21 April
6:50pm

Hot and sweaty — you just don’t equate those two word with Ireland, unless you’ve been working hard outside in the summer…and the weather has been a lot like summer!

The weather here has been phenomenal!  I arrived in Dublin yesterday late afternoon, booked a train to as close to Shannon as I could get (Limerick), then took a taxi to the hostel, made my bed & grabbed a locker.  Then I tried to get on line to check emails, FB, and to check the bus schedule to Shannon from Limerick (since it looks like the way I’ll end up going…that or a taxi) — succeeded for about five minutes — the system kept cutting out (too many trying to get on at once), so I gave up.  I concentrated my efforts figuring out where my day trips would take me.  One of the girls at the reception desk gave me a ton of fliers to look through…back to my room. After weighing the cost, timing (up, out & down to the pick up point–furthest point away, before buses started–by 6:30 for one!!!), I decided on one, went down to book & was told tI just needed o just show up…but after more discussing pros and cons of multi-day tours (not my favorite idea at the time), I decided to go for one that provided two tours AND an overnight accommodation at a hostel for 75 euro.  Their normal rate is 50/tour, so I thought I had a pretty good deal — what closed the deal was the fact that they would come pick me up at the hostel at 6:30–I could do that!  I will need to get a taxi back to the hostel on Friday night, because it doesn’t get back till at least 9pm.  But I’m happy with the arrangements.  We ended calling the tour company quite a few times to ask various questions…(I’d walk away, think of a question & come back…I don’t know how many times I visited the reception staff, but I’m sure they were sighing as they saw me coming as the day ended…LOL!  They were probably glad that I would be gone two whole days!)

So, today I was picked up, taken to Galway by the Dublin Tour Co, along with about 36 other people (picked up at various spots in the city).  Two tours were running: Connemara & Cliffs of Moher.  I had decided to do Cliffs of Moher, but they needed to shift people & I volunteered to do the Connemara tour instead.  It was very nice — I took notes on things that interested me & shot a zillion pictures…until my battery died.  I then resorted to the iPhone camera until it was down below 20%…by then, we were pretty much finished with the official part of the tour & coming into Galway.

I find it interesting that the tours I’ve been on, when I sit up front, the tour guide seems to talk to me rather than the whole tour group — lol.  Kinda weird, but flattering?  But the guide today was great — full of historical facts, some blarney and lots of laughs. (Did you know the blue/pink marks on the sheep were to indicate boy/girl? ^,~ )

The hostel I’m staying at in Galway did not have any adapters, so I had to go out and buy an adapter (only a week left — LOL!) for my camera’s battery charger…the front desk did not have any adapters for US plugs…only 3.80–not bad.  This is really a quite nice hostel (called Snoozles — how cute) — newer than mine in Dublin, and it has an elevator!  YAY (though, didn’t bring my rolly…but my knees certainly appreciate it–always took it up, and the stairs down!) and there is a bathroom W/shower (interesting–just a shower curtain, drain in floor…) en suite.  Happy camper…which brings me back to hot and sweaty!  Our bus’ air conditioning (you wouldn’t think you’d need it this time of year, right??) was out of whack.  So, the driver’s thermometer gauge read 32.9 degrees Celsius!  That’s 91 degrees F, folks!  The only windows were the drivers window and one ceiling vent in the back.  Once he opened it up, the temp dropped slowly to 27…(80).  Everyone was pouring out at each stop, whether they wanted to take photos or not, just to cool down.  But, it wasn’t too bad up front…I had the breeze from his window keeping me reasonably cooled (still very warm, but tolerable)…hence, hot and sweaty — and wanting to take a shower.  I will, just before going to bed (lol…will have to deal with crazy hair in the morning).

Just have to decide if I want to go out to eat tonight, or just munch on a protein bar or an orange or something…funny thing about just sitting all day.  I am tired from doing nothing much — oh, yeah…and getting up at 5:30 to be ready for my pick up…(forgot about that).  And I’m not really all that hungry, either.  Had a salmon & spinach quiche w/carrots — yummy — for my “lunch” at 2pm, so still very full.

Saturday, 23 April, 5:30pm — my where did the time go??

I was way too tired and had no time to do any posting yesterday.

Yesterday was a blast — leisurely rise, dress & breakfast (included with my room)…went for a walk to kill time, then checked out at 9:30 am, wandered over and sat for nearly an hour, kibitzing with the staff…half of them seem to know me by name — was I that much trouble??  I did, tongue-in-cheek, ask why everyone knew my name & the answer was because I was one of a few that were “overnighters” & they had to keep track of us…lol.  I certainly seemed to get good treatment on my first tour.

Now, this next tour was to cover the Cliffs of Moher, Burrens & some other miscellaneous stops.  Did I tell you that the Galway Tour company allows their drivers to pick and choose their routes & minor stops, plus their spiel that they give along the way?  Right!  And each guide had a great repertoire & route.  The Cliffs were breath-taking–in more ways than one–l o n g walk, folks up to the top.  I opted to NOT go up to the tower, which was a bad choice — puffins were up there!!!  I had plenty of time, too…just no energy. >.<

Our tour guide, Desmond Murphy (I think…his Irish accent was pretty heavy) had to be about 70 — years young!  This guy had a sharp mind & quick wit.  His humor could get kinda corny, but great, nonetheless!  He took the time to stop so we could get close up shots of lambs & other things.  He introduced us to the lamb-cow…”it goes moo-ma-a-a” — when we finally saw them, I had to laugh…alpaca!  Must be quite an oddity there.  Nothing but cows and sheep for miles and miles, and yet, relatively near the Cliffs was a heard of alpaca.   LOL.

We saw the beautiful Kylemore Abbey — unfortunately $$ to go in, so I opted to just have lunch (which was also expensive, but this I needed!) and leisurely walk around a take pictures.  Took some great shots of the Abbey with the lake in front.

It was a very long tour, leaving at 10 am and getting back to the bus depot by 6:25pm–20 minutes for me to make a quick pit stop & inhale an orange & scone I had the forethought to put in my bag ^,^ before getting onto the Dublin-bound bus & a 2 1/4 hour drive back.  I contemplated walking back to the hostel — sooo many people still out and about — but I had no more energy!  I found a taxi & paid the 5 euros (including tip) to get me back to the hostel.

I had a delightful day & when I got to the room at 9:30 pm, there was only one person in bed.  So, I quietly got into pjs, tucked stuff into my locker and no sooner than I was in bed, two giggle-boxes came in, whispering very quietly, then giggling louder than they needed.  I thought they were school girls (maybe 16-18), but I saw them today & they were early to mid 20s!  Just acted like school girls…I guess.

Today, I got up, dressed & had breakfast — free except for the extra scrambled eggs (2 euro) I added to my meal — and started in on my laundry…got it folded, and repacked my bag.

I only had a few things on the agenda today: laundry, walk to the botanical gardens and find out the time for Easter services at the Abbey Presbyterian Church.  That’s all…not much, eh?

Well, as I said, laundry was done, so I headed out to find the gardens…found several other things on the way (a community garden that had an award), the Royal Canal with four locks (took some pictures) and a magnificent cemetery.  I remember that the staff person at the hostel said it was before the cemetery…so, I missed my turn.  I asked at the floral center in the cemetery for directions & she gave some good ones, so I headed out again (after wandering through the grounds).  I finally found Botanical Road (I remembered that from the directions given at the hostel, but had apparently missed it) and aimlessly wandered for a bit, but realized I really had very little energy left — I’d been walking for almost 45 minutes, uphill, at a fairly good pace and figured I’d better give up because I saw nothing up the road that resembled a garden & absolutely no signage.  So, reluctantly, I turned around and headed the long walk back at a much more leisurely pace…dragging my sore feet along…even my calves were in on the action (arg).  I stopped and stretched them a bit, which helped, but as each bus swished by, I thought about stopping and hopping on.  I decided to brave it out and make my way back to the hostel, at the very least.

At the hostel, I almost went in, but decided to persevere and keep trudging along–knowing it was only about four blocks more (and downhill, thankfully!) to Abbey Church.  I made it, checked the times, saw a memorial park for fallen heros across from it (in 2008, the gates always seemed to be closed), so I went in.  Beautiful little park with a reflection pond in the shape of a cross, with mosaic tile design at the bottom.  At the head of the park, there is a beautiful sculpture of several people, with birds flying up and away from them.  Very restful — except when unsupervised pre-teens and teens started to scare the ducks in the ponds & bee-lined for the structure & noisily climbed it…until one very loud voice told them to get off. I think everyone in the memorial park was happy to see them leave.  I took some photos & rested my weary feet for a bit, then headed back up to the hostel, but first stopped into the Centra (mini-mart, very popular) for some yogurt & vittles (meals for the days ahead).  Then, drug myself back to the hostel, found some room (just barely) in the fridge for my stuff, gobbled some of the yogurt down & headed up to my room.

I think I must have fallen asleep, but not for too long.  I’ve been surfing the web & getting my photos into iPhoto so I can pick and choose which to upload later.  iPhoto is not being terribly co-operative right now, for some reason…can’t get in to add information about my photos (not a really big deal, but it has been nice to add the info while it’s fresh in my sieve-like mind…)–I’ll deal with that later!

So, my posting is almost ready to copy and paste into my blog, but first, I’m going to do a wander around the hostel to see if there’s anything interesting happening–and maybe grab a bit more food, before I publish the blog.  ^,^

Well, no desire to eat (I know I’ll regret it later…).  Finding power plugs that I can use to charge things is a challenge at this hostel.  One power plug for 8-bed dorm…drats.  I’ve found a plug in the “wifi” station, but I certainly cannot leave my laptop plugged in and walk away…so…here I sit, charging and typing (which slows down the charging–catch-22! LOL).

So, I’ll get this copied & published, then do some surfing (Facebook & all of my emails…etc)…and wait for the computer to fully charge!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday & I WILL get up and go to church — only a short four blocks away!  I am really looking forward to it — then I’ll ride the hop-on/off tour bus around Dublin to refresh my memory of where everything is & take more photos!  Jameson and I didn’t spend much time over in the Temple Bar area (some beautiful stuff over there) when we were here in 2008, so I’ll definitely hop off in this area.  The bus is good for 24 hours, so I will definitely get good use out of it!

So, cheers for now!