The Ring of Kerry
(May 2 - May 21, 1999)

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the photo page.  Please disregard any dates on the photos as Diane's camera seemed to have a mind of its own as far as inserting a date on the photos she took.

Before I start this week's note, I will rectify something that I forgot to do last week.  I got a couple of notes that basically said, "What, no pictures?" about Johnnie Fox's Pub.  We don't yet own a digital camera.  That will happen as soon as I retire and start setting up a web site for our RV travels.  However, I did forget to put the URL for Johnnie Fox's Pub into last week's note (the job does sometimes get in the way of my personal life).  ;-)  So here it is:  There are some photos and also some RealPlayer video of the singers and dancers.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to figure out how to make it work on my new PC.  I recently got a Thinkpad 600 and, for the life of me, can not get RealPlayer to work with anything.  I was able to use RealPlayer on my old Thinkpad 365 (e.g., the Star Wars trailer when it first came out).  Sigh.  No time to play to figure it out.  Anyway, maybe some of you will get it to work and tell me how good/bad it looks.  Now on to this week's note.  I have had absolutely no time to work on this note during this past week as work consumed me.  By the time you receive this note, we will be home in Atlanta and I'll probably be up in NY for a meeting the week of 5/24. 

Some of the folks who made up my team in Ireland started to leave early in the week.  Patrick left on Monday afternoon with his wife Sharon for vacation the rest of the week.  Joan left on Wednesday for vacation the rest of the week.  Rufus headed home to San Jose on Wednesday.  That left Colin (from the UK), Joe (from Scotland), Tom (from CT), and me and Diane.  We ate a couple of nights
together at some old favorites.  Diane and I ate together at Cooper's, which was a bit pricey, but good.  On Thursday evening, the three guys went to see Sarah Brightman in concert while Diane and I went back to Gallagher's for boxty.  At first, we were told we couldn't get in until 9 PM, but some pleading (begging?) got us in within 10 minutes.  I'm not too proud to beg if I think it will work.  ;-)  Although we like to go to dinner with the group, we enjoyed the two evenings by ourselves this week.

I was able to take one of my optional holidays on Thursday and it turned out to be a great day.  As you know, there has to be a 'highlight' on each trip and the tour we took to see the RING of KERRY was it for this trip.  It was one of those train-bus-train tours that had us out of the hotel at 6:45 AM and back to the hotel at 10:30 PM.  It would have been much too far to drive.  The train ride was 3 1/2 hours long to hook up with the bus and then the trip around the Ring of Kerry was 110 miles.  The road (N70) goes around the mountains on the Iveragh Peninsula.  In the heart of the mountain range are The MacGillycuddy Reeks and Carrantuohill, Ireland's highest mountain at about 3,000 feet, as relayed by our knowledgeable tour guide.  I had read that this was the single most popular tourist route in Ireland.  There were great mountain and coastal views as the tour progressed.  We were blessed with perfect weather the day we took this tour.  Anything less would have blocked the views across the water and into the mountains.

We took the train to Killarney and started the tour from there.  It turned out to be the same bus driver we had for the Killarney part of the tour we took on the first weekend.  He recognized us, too.  We headed out of Killarney and along the river which takes water from the lower of the three lakes of Killarney all the way out to Dingle Bay.  Our first stop was the Red Fox Inn for a quick snack or Irish coffee.  Also at the Red Fox Inn was the Bog Village, which is a cluster of reconstructed and furnished cottages showing how life was lived in the early 1800s.  Due to poor drainage in the area, there is much bogland, which is turned into fuel for furnaces and even provides the fuel
for power plants in the area.

After we were all back on the bus, the driver told us he was talking to some of the other drivers about a stop a half hour down the road that many tourists said was a highlight of the tour (along with the scenery).  Some guy rented some land behind a restaurant and gave demonstrations of his Border Collies herding sheep.  This was mountainous terrain and there were thousands of sheep on the hills.  You could see these white specks all over the mountainsides.  It would be much too difficult for sheep owners to climb the mountains to get
their sheep, so they train the dogs to do the work.  It is one thing to see sheep dogs work on TV, and another to see them do work on flat ground at a show, but it is quite another thing to see the real thing.  There were three dogs and the guy said it takes about two years to totally train these dogs.  Two were older veteran dogs and the other was just 16 months old.  What an incredible display.  Everyone was in awe of how these dogs worked with only voice or whistle commands.  There were times the dogs were several hundred yards up the hill and the guy would have them move the sheep left, or right, or down, or hold them.  Then he demonstrated how the dogs would work as a team where one does the work while the other rests, and then vice versa.  Each dog knows the tone of the whistle that is meant for them.  It was truly an incredible demonstration of dogs at work.  He ended the show by letting the young dog move the sheep back up the mountain to their grazing area.

After the sheep dog demonstration, we headed to a restaurant for lunch.  About a mile before the restaurant, on a road along the mountain and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, we stopped at a lookout point where lots of other buses were already stopped.  The view from that point was magnificent.  Then we went to the restaurant for lunch.  Diane and I both had the Shepherd Pie.  We sat at a table that had a view out over a valley and off to the distant hills and out to the Atlantic.  Once again, that feeling came over me that my first manager told me I would experience if I took the assignment in Audit.  I said to Diane, "Can you believe where we are and what we are experiencing?  I can't believe they are paying me to do this.".

We then continued on to the next stop, which was in the town of Sneem (the Irish word for 'knot').  We passed through Waterville on the way, which has the claim that Charlie Chaplin would spend some summers there.  It also has an 18 hole championship golf course designed by Tom Watson.  The Irish Open has been played there, and President Clinton played there when he toured Ireland.  Sneem is a busy little town.  We were told it is favored by artists, climbers, walkers, and cyclists.  It has its back to the sea and faces the mountains.  The houses are painted in different colors and is a very quaint, tidy town.  Lots of stores for the tourists, too.  After some quick shopping and an ice cream cone, we hopped on the bus and headed out.

The tour continued as we headed back to Killarney and through the Killarney National Park.  We saw part of this on the first weekend, including the Torc Waterfall and the Muckross House and Gardens.  We had about a 35 minute wait for the train and then headed back to Dublin.  We saw Tom and Colin in the lounge, so we stopped for tea (for Diane) and Irish coffee (for me).  A long, tiring, and great day before leaving for home.

From about 33,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, here are some final thought and impressions about Ireland:

*  there isn't much sun, at least not in May.  The weather was ok, but not as warm as I like it.  Mostly it was cloudy, windy, cool, mist or rain.  I had read, and was told, that one can experience all four seasons in one day in Ireland.  One T-shirt had that saying and indicated that the four seasons that could be experienced were: Dry, Misty, Raining, Raining Harder.  That's why we were so grateful that our last day in Ireland was magnificent.

*  I liked Dublin and would have liked to have seen more of it.  I don't get much time to tour other than to/from dinner, and we do try to go off in different directions as much as possible to find a restaurant.  There was so much more to see, like St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Dublin Viking Experience, Phoenix Park (which we saw as we drove through it to/from work, but we never got to walk through it on a Sunday when one could see cricket or polo being played).  There were churches that caught my eye while driving to work that we never had a chance to visit.

*  St. Stephen's Green Park with all its nicely kept lawns and flower beds, small lake, and very peaceful setting.  We walked through this park many nights on the way to dinner.  It was surrounded by four busy streets, but it was totally isolated inside the park with lots of trees and bushes to dampen outside noise.

*  Grafton Street.  I'm a sucker for pedestrian streets with lots of shops and people, but especially the street musicians.  Music is like a magnet and I am immediately attracted to it so I can check it out and get some video (and reward the musicians accordingly).  It is what I remember vividly about all the trips.  I haven't watched the video in a while, but I can still picture the trio (two guys (guitar and mandolin) and a gal (violin)) in Retiro Park in Madrid (in 1994) on Sunday afternoons playing classical music and my being there when I first heard them start playing the Ave Maria.  I was beside myself because I love the Ave Maria.  The two guys played that great background music in that hymn while the gal (she was from London) played the melody.  And she was so expressive.  I actually got it on tape on two different occasions.  As for Dublin, there was:

    - the old guy playing the guitar via keys.  I've never seen a guitar like this before.  The neck was a normal guitar with six strings and he played as one would normally play a guitar.  What was different was where a guitarist picks the strings.  In place of the strings were six keys that, when pressed, would pick the string.  So it was sort of like 'keytar'.  ;-)  I like to see new and unusual sites and sounds and this guy was great.  He was probably in his 60s, looked a little worn, wore a scraggly hat, had one bad eye, was sort of hunched over at the shoulders.  When he took a break, I told him he was great.  He engaged me in conversation about where we were from and what I was doing in Dublin.  Nice guy, great musician.

    - there was the 1-man band.  He was set up on a chair on a small portable stage.  He played guitar, and harmonica, and drums, and he had two other band 'members'.  They were actually dummies attached to the foot pedal such that it seemed they were playing along with him.  He was also very good.

    - there was the kid with the Elvis haircut who wasn't all that good, but he was out there lots of evening playing and singing his heart out.

    - and then there was the kid who was playing 'silent' guitar.  He was out there a lot, but you could never hear anything but low volume sounds coming from his small amp.  It was as though he was playing 'air guitar'.  Funny.

*    Temple Bar with all its pubs, restaurants, and people watching.

*    In lieu of spending a lot of time in the city, we toured.  I have never taken three tours in any country that I have been to.  We usually stay in the cities or take public transportation to different places and then walked around.  It would not have been possible to walk around the Ring of Kerry or get to Glendalough or Powerscourt or Cork or Blarney or Killarney.  Those were great tours and afforded an opportunity to see a lot of the countryside without having to do all of the driving which, after seeing the roads the bus took around the Ring of Kerry, would not have been very relaxing for the driver.  The scenery out in the countryside is marvelous:  pastures, mountains,
thousands of sheep, rugged terrain, seashore with beaches and/or cliffs.  There were places we didn't have time to go see, like Galway, the Dingle Peninsula, Newgrange, Malahide (although Diane did get there), and much more.

*  And finally, there are the Irish people.  Of all the places we have visited in the world, the Irish are some of the nicest, pleasant, and fun loving people we have met. 

We really enjoyed this trip.  Diane had a great time.  She was constantly busy and left wishing she had another week to spend there to see the places she didn't have time to go see.  All in all, a great trip.

One of the reasons I wanted to re-join the audit team was for the travel and so the time would go faster than it was going in 1997 when I was chained to a desk.  Well, I got my wish, and then some.  I came back to Audit in April 1998 and can't believe that 14 months have gone by already.  The time just flies by as a result of the job and the travel.  Already in the past 14 months, we have been out of the USA for 21 weeks.  Sure, I have to spend lots of time in Poughkeepsie and Rochester and Boulder but, in return, we get to do Germany, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Dublin.  Everyone on our team does this job because they want to travel and see the world.  In the end, it's worth enduring the hard times to be able to do this kind of traveling. 

It is no secret that this will be my last full year of work and then it's off to retirement and implement our plans to travel around the USA in an RV.  I'm in the final phase of an almost 34 year career and we are coming up on our final few trips.  I can't say yet exactly where we are going.  In some cases, I don't even know myself yet, but I know we will be going to at least one new place for us and probably back to some places we have been to already.  We plan to take two weeks in Europe sometime this summer and take my mom on vacation with us.  I'm sure that will make for some "interesting" travels.   It has taken more that two years since my dad died in 1996 to get her to want to do this trip.  Now she has her first ever passport and is champing at the bit to go see Paris.  We'll probably take her to see Bavaria and swing by Zurich to visit my friend Peter and his family.  

Until next time, take care.

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