June 10, 2015

Irish Adventure - Day 1 - Galway & Medieval Banquet

I'm finally here!! I'm in Ireland!!

I arrived in Dublin with no further troubles or hiccups. I stopped into a restroom at the airport to brush my teeth, comb my crazy hair and generally wake up a bit. 
My last flight from Toronto direct to Dublin took me from sunset to glorious sunrise and I didn't get much sleep, thus felt a little groggy when I arrived. 

I sought out the Airlink bus where I bought a ticket to connect me to the train station half an hour away. There, I was meeting my Irish Rail Tour that I had signed up for at 10:30 am. 
The bus ride took us all around and through the downtown area so I had a good look at the area. Dublin is a neat, bustling city with many people walking, bussing or biking to work.

Once at the train station, I grabbed a snack, people-watched and read for a bit while I waited. For a weekday morning there seemed to be a lot of people arriving into the city presumably for work. 

I finally spotted my guide in his bright yellow jacket. Funny thing though, I happened to be the only person who signed up for this tour on this day! So my guide (a nice retired fellow) rode with me the two hours to Galway. He was very pleasant but I would've preferred either a large group or by myself. 

The train was super comfortable, with seats with and without tables and power outlets at each. I was grateful to be able to charge my iPhone after being up all night. The trains also all have free wifi! Bonus!! 
We rode through the interior of Ireland, passing farms and small whistle-stop towns and communities. Sean, my guide, pointed out a few interesting things along the way. Then he passed me off to another guide in Galway. This next guide was probably in his eighties but talked and acted like he was on speed! He locked up my suitcase for the three hours I had to explore the city, then he whipped me through the main square and main street so fast, talking a mile a minute and then left me to explore. Crazy! I felt like I had just been in my own personal tornado named Owen! 
The weather was gorgeous and immediately I knew I was over dressed in jeans. Ah well. 'Twas too late to change. I would just have to stick to the shade and keep cool. 
By this time, about 1:30 pm, I had been up for 24 hours with only about 2 hours actual solid sleep. I was hot and sleepy but I strolled down the exceptionally quaint Main Street of Galway, enjoying all the sights of locals and tourists alike and all the sounds of talented Irish buskers on every corner. 

My whirlwind of a guide recommended a seafood restaurant called McDonagh's, so I popped in and had delicious cod and chips. The chips were fresh cut and the fish was flaky and tender. 

I was finished my browsing, nearly melting in the heat, and headed toward the harbour/bay where there was a lovely cool breeze. People were spread out, lounging on the grass and steps along the water on either side on the famous Spanish Arch. 

I soon headed back to the train station a tad early after I figured out that the only good free wifi was from the trains themselves, even while they were stopped in the station. 
I meet Owen back at the station where he got my case and put me on a coach bus going south through Limerick to the Bunratty Castle where I'm was booked to stay at the Castle Hotel!
Oddly enough, again I was the only person booked and had the huge coach bus to myself! The driver drove like a maniac, unless that's how they all drive over here?!! Traffic is crazy, with double lane round-abouts, cyclists without helmets darting and weaving, and the big tour busses, like mine, that push their way in everywhere. Thankfully it was air conditioned and the driver let me snooze  on the way! 

I nodded awake just as my coach driver pulled into my hotel. The Bunratty Castle Hotel is fabulous!!! I have my very own king sized bed!!!! I had an amazing shower, washing off my 24+ hours of grogginess. 
At 8:30 I walked the 5 minutes down the lane to the very cool Bunratty Castle and Folk Park where I was booked at their Medieval Feast for the evening. 

We were greeted with a traditional piper as we climbed the wooden steps up into the 14th century castle. Ladies dressed in medieval costume garb welcomed and directed us up a skinny stone spiral staircase that wound all the way up to the highest level of the castle tower. Seriously, a long way up!! 
Friendly men, also dressed in full costume handed us a marble mug of honeyed mead to sip as a harpist and violinist played in the centre of the room. The servers circulated, offering more mead (I was fine to just sip a bit, not my favourite.) and offering a traditional bread dipped in salt for all the guests, to "drive away any evil spirits". Medieval superstitions at their best! 

This upper Lord's room was amazing! Original tapestries, antique wooden furniture, thousand year old Irish deer and elk antlers were on display. 
The banquet servers/entertainers picked an older couple, dinner guests, to play Lord and Lady, crowns and all. They gave us some history of the castle and sang a welcoming song. Very talented people!! 
We were then ushered through a small doorway, down an even skinnier and treacherous looking stone stairwell to the main level where we were seated in long family style banquet tables. Instructions were given (no cutlery, only your hands and dagger/knife, four courses, if you enjoy anything clap or pound the table) and the music and delicious dinning commenced. There was plenty of humour, nice conversation and great food! Is highly recommend the banquet to anyone!! 

I sat next to a very nice lady from New Hampshire who is a widow and travels all over on her own. She staying at my same hotel so we walked back together. 

I got back to my hotel at 11:30 pm, so I was plenty ready to hit the hay! I was fighting sleep after dinner when the were singing O Danny Boy. 

Day 1 in Ireland was a little odd but a success at the end!

I've just finished living Day 2 but lack the energy to tell you about it right now. I'll write again tomorrow with the details on this most excellent day! 

1 comment:

JetTheWestie said...

This made me laugh and smile so much as my Granda is from Limerick. Yes they all drive like that....crazy! Galway and Bunratty are both gorgeous places! It was great to see them through your eyes.

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