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POOR BOYS IRISH HOLIDAY [Jan. 8th, 2007|05:49 pm]
johnhedge
Getting ready to go.

I spent 4 months on the web gathering information. Much of it from Lonely Planets Thorn Tree UK-Ireland branch. Once you get used to the British humor and them thinking you are a troll they are very helpful and informative.

First I had to figure where I was going. I decided on Dublin, up the east coast to Dundalk, across to Sligo, then down the west coast to Galway, Ennis, Doolin, Killarney, Waterford and back to Dublin. I figured 18 days with 2 nights and one day at each stop.

Next was accommodations. I sent out 10 inquiries in each area. I received 10 replies. 6 were either traveling themselves or otherwise committed. 4 were agreeable to host me. I mention each of the 4 under the appropriate town.
Then I went to Irish hostels online, hostel Booker's, and Independent Irish hostels to fill in the blanks. I booked hostels in Sligo, Galway, Doolin and Waterford. All these can be booked online except Doolin.

I had to much luggage to hitch so I purchased the Buserann open road pass for $139 US.

I booked US Airways for $477 US, and picked up $400.00 US in euros

I packed light just my medicines , 3 changes of cloths, 4 changes of underwear, socks, and personal toilet items.

I printed off my bus schedules, hostel bookings confirmation, any sights I particularly wanted to see, and my boarding pass.

My purpose was to study the Irish people and culture first hand I am not really into castle ruins and monuments. I did want to see the Cliffs of Mohar, take the ferry to the Arran island, and do the Ring of Kerry tour. I also wanted to visit the local pubs for chats and traditional Irish music. Other than that I had a flexible schedule

I figured to use the self catering kitchens to keep costs down. That way I ate for 5 euro per day.
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Getting to Ireland [Jan. 8th, 2007|04:01 pm]
johnhedge
I flew US Airways out of Dulles International Airport near Washington DC. I arrived plenty early as Brian, my son-in-law dropped the kids off at school and came and got me. We arrived about 3 hours early. I use wheelchair assistance at the airports as it is usually quite a distance from the curb to the departure gate, and long walks are a problem for me.

I was to fly to Charlotte NC, then to Philadelphia, to go through customs, then to Dublin. Seemed strange to fly south to Charlotte then back north ,over DC, to get to Philly. It seems US Airways hub is Charlotte and customs is at Philly.

I checked my backpack through at the curb. For some reason because I was traveling on a passport I couldn't do it over the internet.When I went through check in they checked everything very closely. I had called US Airways about bringing bug spray which they said would be acceptable. However TSA didn't think so and threw out my bug spray and shaving cream. Everything else passed and I was cleared through to the departure gate. The wheelchair attendant dropped be at gate 210 where I was to catch my flight 3 hours later.

There was a Subway sandwich Shop near the gate and nothing else. It seems that US Air gates are always in out of the way places. I had a steak and cheese sandwich and coffee for lunch and settled in to read my bible. I was reading the book of Psalms, which are really Jewish praise songs written by King David. Reading is a good conversation starter as people want to know what you are reading. When they find it is the bible they always have spiritual questions.

I wanted to get some small housewarming gifts for people who were hosting me on this journey. It was too far back to the tourist trap mall and there was nothing nearby, so I figured I would get them in Charlotte or Philly. Not so, same problem of being out of the way and to far to get anything.

Flight 17 to Charlotte was uneventful. They had free beverage service with alcoholic drinks for $5 if you wanted them. Charlotte airport is bigger than I thought it would be and quite spread out. Thank heavens for wheelchair assistance.
Flight 1706 was on time, and once again had beverage service.

Flight 1706s originated in Philly so it was on time. As we were on the taxi-way and next to depart they announced that we were returning to the gate, It seems 50 bags of luggage had been overlooked by the loading crew. They loaded the luggage and we were off to Dublin.

The plane was a 747 with 10 seats across 2 on both sides of the isle and 6 in the middle. The plane was way to cramped for a 14 hour flight. My seat was at the window on the starboard side. The lady ahead of me leaned her seat all the way back and it pinned my legs to the seat. I asked her if she would be comfortable if she moved a couple of clicks forward. She obliged and it was barely bearable.

My seat mate was Eric. His wife sat about 6 rows back in the middle of the plane and they kept hollering back and forth to communicate with each other. A female passenger sitting next to his wife offered to switch seats with him so they could set together.

My new seatmate was named Sarah and she was from Chicago. She was in her late 20s and had a doctorate from Trinity College in Dublin, in Peace Studies. Her boyfriend was still attending Trinity and she was going to visit him for the weekend. They are both US citizens but Trinity has the best curriculum for their major.

We had quite a chat I had spent some time in Chicago as a kid and was somewhat familiar with the city. We also spoke of spiritual things, which I always seem to do, and she had an interesting concept of it all. She was very philosophical about it all. We spoke of her concept of God etc. I let her know that believing in Jesus Christ and accepting him as your saviour was the only way to get to heaven. I am not sure I convinced her, but I sure tried in a gentle way.

We had taken off at 9:00 pm so dinner was served at Midnight. I had requested a diabetic meal and was very disappointed with it. I had an overcooked chicken breast, dry rice, raw carrots, a roll and a fruit cup. Sarah's meal looked much more appetizing.

Sarah was very tolerant of my constantly getting up to strech my legs to get rid of cramps to avoid blood clots, and go to the bathroom. She had a very nice personality and will make a fine wife if treated with love, respect, and understanding.

They had some stupid movie on where the couple seemed to fight in every scene. Fourtunaly we had earphones, either your own or you could purchase them for $5. So I was able to get some sleep, although my legs cramping kept waking me up.

I was sure glad to see Dublin airport.
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Arriving DUBLIN [Jan. 8th, 2007|01:20 pm]
johnhedge
We arrived in Dublin at 3:30 am which is 8:300 am Irish time. They are 5 hours ahead of us time wise.

I picked up my luggage and went looking for customs. There were 2 lines one for non-EU and one for EU passengers. The non-EU line was long and slow so I went down the EU line, which was empty. I saw no one as I went through. When I came out into the lobby I asked the Gardia ( policeman ) where to find customs. He said you just came through it. I hadn't seen it so I went on my way to the curb.

There was a ticket machine there where you could get a 1-3 day bus pass for Dublin. I purchased the 1 day pass for 5 euro which was good for 24 hours on all Dublin buses. I was in Dublin for 2 days and it always worked in the meters on the buses, which I rode a lot to avoid walking as much as possible.

I caught the bus to the main bus station and picked up my " open road " bus pass. Then I caught the # 123 bus from Oconnell street to the Guinness Brewery. My hostel was 100 yards down from the brewery.

The Brewery Hostel is in a very old building in the old part of town. The place is kind of run down and rickety but still comfortable and cozy, with a nice friendly, courteous, helpful staff. They carried my luggage up to my room on the 2nd floor, 3rd floor to me, as they call the 1st floor the ground floor in Ireland. They did all they could to make my stay enjoyable.

My room was an 8 bed crowded dorm room. I had heard of it having bedbugs but never saw any signs of the critters, It is far better than a park bench and more comfortable. It has en suite bathrooms ( loo's ) and was clean and airy.

The place caters to the backpackers and therefore has an abundance of young people. However they were all kind and courteous and treated me like their Grandpa. The room accommodated 3 Italians, and 4 Germans plus myself.

Breakfast is included which consists of Corn Flakes, granola, toast with butter and jam, milk tea and instant coffee. I don't think the Irish know about regular coffee as all coffee is espresso. Breakfast is from 8:00-10:00. The self catering kitchen is always open, but they pull breakfast at 10:00. To get to the kitchen you go downstairs, out the back door and around to the kitchen. There are 2 toasters and you queue up to make your toast.

There is a free Internet in the lounge if you can find it available. I did and tried to get on AOL to check my e-mail, kept getting the "page not available" flag. Then one of the computer savvy young people explained that AOL was a US company and you had to reach it through an EU server to get to it. He showed my how and that worked, so I checked my e-mail

I left my luggage and went out and about Dublin. I needed a collapsible luggage carrier. Everybody thought I was talking about someone to carry my luggage for me. Actually they call it a luggage trolley

I asked the clerk how far it was to find one. That is when I learned about the infamous Irish "5 minute walk" It seems that to the Irish everything is only a 5 minute walk. I think they think that from Dublin to Galway is only a 5 minute walk. Anyway it was 11/2 miles. 25 minutes later with aching feet and many long breaks I arrived.

The trolley cost me 30 euro. Darn I had gotten a nice for for my birthday from the kids but couldn't find it when I packed for the trip. However the one I got proved to be invaluable in my travels.

I was worn out so I went to back to the hostel, caught the bus this time, and laid down to think about it. I woke up 2 hours later and was hungry. I went looking for some food. It was 7:30 pm and most Pubs quite serving before that. I found Nash's Pub which served till 9:00 pm and had bangers and mashed. They sure give you a lot of food in the pubs and the price is right. I drank my tea slowly wanting to experience the night scene. I stayed till 9:00 pm which is my bedtime. So I went back to the hostel to go to bed. It seems they don't start partying till 10:00 pm and party till around 2:00 am. To late for me at my age.

My roommates were just going out for the evening when I got back and they came back in at 2:00 am. They were very quiet and respectful and did not cause any disturbance.

Next morning I got up late about 10:30. Breakfast was over, and I was looking for more than toast and jam for breakfast. By the time I got cleaned up and took my medicines it was 12:00 pm. So I took the #123 bus to the city center looking for breakfast. I also wanted a Rugby shirt for one of my sports minded grand kids. I found a pub which served breakfast all day, so I had the Irish Fry Up. Ham, sausage, bacon,1 egg, baked beans and toast with coffee ( watered down espresso ) It cost 7 euro which is more than my usual daily budget for food. It was very good however and filling.

Across the street was Carols Irish Gift Shop. I brought an official Rugby shirt for $50 US, awfully overpriced if you ask me. They only ship from the Internet so I had to find the post office to post it. It was only a 5 minute walk down the street. It cost 4.80 euro to ship it to the US, but that is better than carrying it all over Ireland.

I was tired so I went back to the hostel to lie down and think about it. 2 hours later I woke up and found the breakfast had burnt off so I was hungry and did a food search. I had heard the Brazen Head Pub was a good place to eat and only a 5 minute walk. It took me 20 minutes to get to Bridge St and the Lifty River where it is located and that was downhill, believe me I took a taxi back to the hostel.

The Brazen Head Pub is the oldest pub in Dublin and has quite a history behind it. It was the scene of many important decisions and discussions over the years. It has an old world look about it and traditional Irish music in the music lounge, if you can get in to hear it. One would need to come very early to get a seat cause once it is full they people stay and make a night of it.

So I sat at the bar and had a sirloin steak, with 2 vegetables, one of which is always potatoes, and tea. Very good and cooked just right and plentiful. The people were very friendly and talkitive and kept wanting to buy me a round. I declined for medical reasons and that seemed acceptable.

As mentioned before I took a taxi back, I never would have made back up that hill. When I got back my roommates had gone out for the night so I went to bed.

I realized that I better get out of town or I would spend my entire budget in Dublin so I went to the main bus station to catch the bus to Dundalk. The city bus doesn't service the main bus station so I took the #123 downtown and took a taxi to the main bus station. They said it was a 10 minute walk, and I figured that was twice as long as a 5 minute walk.

I only had to wait 15 minutes for the Dundalk bus, and I was off.
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DUNDALK IRELAND [Dec. 17th, 2006|05:08 pm]
johnhedge
My purpose is to go from Dublin, to Dundalk, to Sligo, to Galway, to Ennis, to Doolin , to Killarney, to Waterford, and back to Dublin.
I have lined up 4 Irish families from the Hospitality Club, and Couch-surfers to stay with along the way. So I look forward to an enjoyable trip of discovery and fellowship.

Dundalk is the first stop on my journey. It is an industrial city up near the Northern Irish border. It used to have quite a bit of industry but much of it has moved away. Now a great many people commute to Dublin for work. A 1 1/2 hour bus journey away.

My hosts were Conner and Ina who of course live in Dundalk. He is a freelance accountant who handles the books for many small business in Dundalk, and she is a German girl who teaches German to the Dublin financial community who deal with the German economy. She says she came to visit friends, fell in love, and stayed in Ireland. They have only been married 4 months and seem to be a happy, well adjusted couple.

I really appreciate their hospitality as they were still settling in and basically living out of boxes. They both work and are involved in young peoples activities. Naturally they always have a project going to make the place livable. When I arrived on Sunday they were both working in the backyard preparing a floor for a much needed storage shed. Yet they took the time to stop and come pick me up at the bus station across town.

Conner's " mum " sent over the traditional Sunday roast which was delicious and much appreciated. I had a bed upstairs in Ina's office on the couch. very cozy and comfortable.

On Monday they were both going to work, so I had Conner drop me off at the bus station with the agreement that he would pick me up there at 6:00.
They had a commitment that night so they were eating on the way home, so I ate in town at a small resturant near the bus station.

I hung around town for 9 hours without much of anything touristy to do. There was a park across from the court house which I used as my base. I spent most of the day reading and talking with people who came by. I walked around window shopping.

It was damp and cold so I was looking for a warm coat. I asked several people where to find a second hand store and they said you mean a charity shop. After several wild goose chases I was directed by a knowledgeable lady to a charity shop just a "5 minute walk" away. 20 minutes later I arrived there .The clerk was very helpful but explained that they did not have anything I could use. I was ready to leave wen the manager said, just a minute I just got some stuff in let me check that. He disappeared into the back room and came back with a beautiful leather jacket which fit me just fine. I knew it would be expensive but I was freezing and ready to pay whatever he asked. He said it would be 10 euro about $15.00 US and I was elated. So I walked out with my new coat on.

When I got back to the park I was knackered and tried t take a nap. I say tried as people kept waking me up to see if I was alright. I would rather they do that than let me set there and die from a heart attack or something.
So I wrote in my journal about my Dublin experience which took about 2 hours. Then I read scripture, which is a good conversation starter as people want to know what I am reading. Some are very curious and seeking knowledge and others could care less, so we talked about what they were interested in.

I stopped by the little restaurant I spoke of earlier and had a quiche and side salad. To the chef a side salad is an oblong plate with a tablespoon or so of everything on hid salad bar. More food than I should eat in 2 days. Some of it I liked, some I didn't. however I did not leave there hungry.

Conner picked me up at 6:00 sharp, accountants minds work that way you know. He took me to his home. They were going right out, so I went up to my couch and didn't wake up till I heard them come home.

The next morning after toast and tea Conner dropped me at the bus station to catch my bus to Dublin and on to Sligo.
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SLIGO IRELAND [Dec. 16th, 2006|08:36 pm]
johnhedge
Sligo is to hilly for me so I pretty much stayed at the hostel and didn't see much of the town.

To go from Dundalk to Sligo you have to go back through Dublin then out. As we traveled along I marveled at what seemed to me to be 10,000 miles of stone fences in Ireland. Stone must be plentiful as there are stone fences everywhere. Off the carriageways, highways to me, it seems like the roads are more for sheep paths than cars. They sure weren't engineered for cars as they are very narrow and winding. When 2 buses meet they have to pull right up to the stone fence to pass and then pull in their rear view mirrors so they don't hit each other. You are either on the road or against the fence as there is no shoulder, just a foot between the asphalt and the fence. The fences are just piled together and not cemented or secured in any way. I understand that to get your livestock through you move stone to make a gate get the stock through and put the stone back. An Irish rush hour occurs when you come upon a hundred or more sheep being moved down the road in front of you. Doesn't do any good to honk your horn it just starts the sheep baaing and nothing else occurs.

The countryside is beautiful lush green and scenic. I guess all that rain helps.

The houses in the country are rectangular about 100 ft long and 40 ft wide with very steep roofs. The older ones are thatched and the newer ones are of more durable material. The farms appear quite small and stock raising appears to be a major industry. Sheep seem to be the major animal raised.

As I said Sligo is very hilly. It was a "5 minute walk" uphill to the hostel. Thankfully they have a shuttle and came and picked me up at the bus station.
The Eden Hill Hostel is an old Victorian home that used to belong to some prominent person and has been converted by a church group into a hostel. It is in a residential area which is not commercialized in any way. Just a nice quiet place to rest and relax. They are very straight laced and run a good christian place. No partying etc allowed. It is clean well staffed by good people and well maintained.

I stayed on the 2nd floor, 3rd floor to me, and the clerk was nice enough to carry my luggage up to my room. It was an 8 bed ward with only 3 of us there.

They do your laundry for 8 euros as the staff are the only ones allowed to run the equipment. There is a small grocery store down the hill so I made the "5 minute walk" to get there. Going down wasn't bad but it took me 1/2 hour to get back up the hill in small bits and pieces had to lie down for an hour and think about it before I could cook my supper.

To get to the kitchen you go out the back door and around to the kitchen which is exceedingly well stocked with all the utensils you need. They have butter, cream and sugar out every morning for your use. Like all catering kitchens they have instant coffee and tea available all day. There is also the usual " free food " section where travelers leave unwanted non-perishable items for anyone who can use them. This is handy as there always seems to be salt, pepper, sugar and other items you have to buy in bulk and can't use it all up. I brought a # of oatmeal, used it 6 days and left the rest at the last hostel before heading for Dublin.

Had I known 50 years ago what I know now I would have taken 2-3 years after Uni and backpacked the world. However even at 72 years old I am having the time of my life.

Well time to catch the bus to Galway.
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GALWAY IRELAND [Dec. 16th, 2006|06:36 pm]
johnhedge
I do believe Galway is my favorite Irish city. It is a city with a home town feel and a very friendly atmosphere.

I caught the bus to Galway. Funny thing with Irish seniors getting a free bus pass they never checked my open road pass. When I mentioned it to one of the drivers he said, you mean you are not Irish? You look like an Irish gentleman and dress like one. I always told them about it anyway.

The bus station and the train station are combined in Galway as they are in most Irish cities. I was surprised to see big signs hanging in the train station with scripture verses on them. Apparently the Civil Liberty Union hasn't gotten there yet. Although God isn't completely in at least they are not trying to put God out.

I was staying at the Gladaugh Hostel in Galway about a block from the bus station. It looked like a dump from the outside and the interior reconfirmed that opinion. Probably the worst hostel I stayed in in Ireland. You went up 30 steps to the admissions desk. Thank the Lord for young people who are willing to help an old fella up the stairs with his luggage. I think I would still be trying to get up those stairs today if they hadn't helped me.

The building is old and run down, primarily a backpackers hostel with young party animals in full swing The staff is kind of lacks and not very accommodating. I was in a 10 bed dorm with 6 guys and 4 girls. I raised 4 daughters but it still seemed strange sleeping in a room with strange women. Everyone was well behaved and seem to naturally except this arrangement. There were 3 guys and 2 girls from Switzerland and 3 guys from Germany plus myself. One of the Swiss guys had a guitar and they played and sang their native songs till midnight when the management closed the party down. I found that part very interesting and entertaining. The Swiss must learn to yodel as soon as they can talk and are pretty good at it.

The self catering kitchen was a mess due to its age and the forgetfulness of some to clean up after themselves. Otherwise it was adequate as long as you washed your utensils before and after use., And cleaned off a working space so you could do prep. The young people tended to use convenience foods and ate out of tins and packages.

Galway itself was delightful and I enjoyed it greatly. It has a home town feel with Eyre Park for a town square. I would set and read scripture and people would stop and ask what I was reading. I had to listen closely as the Irish tend to run all their words together. Instead of saying I am going to town, they seem to say Iamgoingtotown like it is all one word. With my 30% loss of hearing it is difficult. However they never complained about saying it again slower and louder. Anyway, I would say it is a love letter from God ,who loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that any who believe in Jesus might have eternal life. It was written over thousands of years by 66 writers who were inspired by the Holy Spirit as to what to write. Many wrote about things that would happen in the future that they never knew or understood. That would start a discussion about was Mary really a virgin, did the people walk across the Red Sea on dry land etc. Soon a crowd would start to gather all asking spiritual questions. If you try this you better know your bible because the questions are many and varied. Enough of my sermon let me get on with my story.

Galway has a 1/2 mile long shopping street with every imaginable kind of shop. The Swiss kids worked in these shops to get traveling money. My departed wife would have worn out her plastic money on this street for sure.

The best fish and chips, we call them french fries and potato chips are called crisps I ever had was in the Supermac Restaurant in Galway They served a whole fresh fillet of fish nicely breaded and cooked to perfection. They gave me what must have been 2-3 potatoes as chips. They may have had a potato famine once but there is no shortage now. Meat and 2 vegetables always includes a potato as one of the vegetables.

I loved the Irish soda bread and soups. I couldn't handle the Irish Fry Up for breakfast as their cured meats are way to salty for my taste and I don't eat blood pudding or lard pudding or have Guinness for breakfast However I loved the food what little I had.

I found that I could eat home cooked meals for 5 euro per day using the grocery store and the self catering kitchen. I would have oatmeal for breakfast, pack a sandwich made with last nights leftovers for lunch and fix a proper supper when I got back to the hostel. Figure 15 euros a day for accommodations that's 20 euro. Add in bus pass cost and I could make it n my budget
Eating out would be about 30 euro a day, way over my budget and I can fix better food. My opinion of course .I am on a special diet for health reasons and things I can have in a restaurant are very limited. I have been known to splurge occasionally of course, but not often.
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ENNIS IRELAND [Dec. 16th, 2006|03:20 pm]
johnhedge
Ennis was the most enjoyable part of my journey.

From Galway I went to Ennis where POS ( Paul ) met me at the bus. He took my rolling duffel and proceeded to give me a walking tour of Ennis. Boy it was a "5 minute walk" plus many more minutes walking. We stopped at a pub where Paul had the Carvery while I had my usual soup and brown bread.

Generally I noticed that most Irish don't own a car and tend to use hire ( rental to Americans ) when they need a car. I suppose with the roads, insurance, petrol cost, licenses etc it is quite expensive to own a car unless you really need to. Anyway we split the taxi fare to his place in Clarecastle. He and Mary his wife ( one of the nicest, kindest women I have ever met, live in a modest little place, we would call it a townhouse. It is close to the bus stop and has a small grocery near by.

They are very Irish, friendly and accommodating. I had probably the most enjoyable visit of my trip, visiting with them. Paul is middle age, retired, and works in season as a castle tour guide. Believe me he knows Ireland, its history, travel spots and accommodations. I could not mention a hostel he didn't know about. What Paul doesn't know about Ireland isn't worth knowing. He told me that if I wanted to come back he and Mary would split the cost of a hire car with me and he would show me the hidden Ireland that most people never see. I can't wait and am trying to work out the logistics with him now. Faith and ba gory it will be a great adventure.

Conner and Ina in Dundalk were a nice young couple and treated me very well. However they were just married and had a very hectic lifestyle, with work, settling in and all their young peoples activities. I appreciate that they even took the time to host me with all they had going on.

Paul gave me some pointers about traveling which were very useful. Like getting there early so you get your pick of beds at the hostel and little things like that.

The next day we went to BUN RATTY CASTLE, a restored castle with a replica of an 18th century village included in the complex, sort of a theme park type of thing without the Disney hype and flair. Just plain and ordinary like it would have been in the old days. They even had a gal making apple crisp as they did in the old days in a great big pan. Boy she could sure peel those apples quick. She was left handed and could peel and slice an apple in about 30 seconds. I could sure use her during canning season. She said if we came back in an hour we could buy a slice from the tea room straight from the oven. You know I was in queue 45 minutes later.

With Paul as our tour guide it was very enjoyable and gave a lot of behind the scenes information. You would have thought he had grown up it that village 200 years ago his knowledge was so complete.

I could not see the whole thing because it was too much walking. But they tolerated my infirmity and I waited in the tea room drinking tea till they finished looking around.

Then we caught the bus back to Clarecastle. It took us 15 minutes to get there from Clarecastle and 2 hours to get back, as we had to go through Shannon airport and had a layover between buses.

That night we sat and talked. They liked my hobo stories and had many questions about the life style. Hobos in Ireland are called travelers or gypsies and they usually have a trade with which they earn their living from town to town. However like in the US the lifestyle is dieing out.
Paul said my stories sounded like the old west

I was surprised to discover that you need a license to operate your television in Ireland. It is 160 euros, about $200.00 a year and you only get 4 channels. It is monitored from vehicles on the street and there is a fine for not having the license. The reason being there is not enough advertisement money to sustain it and the govt subsidizes it. You can get cable but that costs extra.

The next day I was off to Doolin on the bus.
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DOOLIN IRELAND [Dec. 16th, 2006|08:26 am]
johnhedge
Doolin is a truly Irish experience of the rural Irish life.

I arrived in Doolin about 2:00 pm on the bus. I was booked into the Allie River Hostel and the driver let me off just across the street from the hostel. One thing I noticed about Irish bus service. They are very client orientated and accommodating. They go out of their way to give good service. In this case the bus stop was down the road but the driver stopped across from the hostel just to accommodate me.

From where the bus left me off I only had to walk across the street and down across the river to get to the hostel. The Allie River Hostel is probably the best hostel I stayed at in Ireland. A quaint truly Irish little place right on the river. It looked like it was right out of an old Irish movie. A very friendly, homey type of place which gives you the feeling that you are at home. It is owned by a guy who lives justacross the river and is himself a traveler, traveling in the off season. The sign on the door says " if no staff is present, just make yourself at home and we will be by later". My kind of place laid back and easy going and operated on the honor system just like things were when I was a kid back on the farm.

The place is geared to the traveler with well equipped self catering kitchen, free washing machine with soup included and a coin metered dryer with plenty of clothes line outside to dry clothes on. Free Internet use, just wait your turn and be courteous to others waiting to use the net. There is a well stocked little grocery just a "5 minute walk" away.

Doolin is in two parts about a "5 minute walk" apart. There are two commercial type areas with pubs, shops, etc with other concerns sort of strung out between them. Where the bus let me off is a pub called Fitzpatrick's Pub. A nice friendly little place with a good lunch carvery from 12-3:00. The bartender was a nice young lady from Australia who was working her way around Ireland. A very chatty outgoing type of person who makes for a good bartender.

The best place to eat is Oconnors Pub just a "5 minute walk" from the hostel. So I stuck out my thumb and the second car to come by picked me up. Hitching is very easy in western Ireland and I met many wonderful people. The guy who picked me up was named Stewart, an retired Merchant marine from Florida who had retired in Ireland. Ireland is very good to their senior citizens. They get a government pension of 750 euros, 400 units of free electricity, a free phone and a free bus pass each month. Kind of a sweet deal if you ask me. If my grandfather had come over from Ireland, instead of being second generation American, I could claim Irish citizenship and reap those benefits which I would do in a heart beat.

Anyway it just happens that Stewart was on his way to Oconners for dinner. So I got a ride right to the door. I had a bowl of seafood chowder with brown bread for supper. Steward insisted on buying and would not let me repay him. We talked for about 2 hours while he downed 3 pints of Guinness and I drank tea. Like most Irish people he loved stories especially my hobo days stories. He took to calling me Hobo John which seemed to amuse him greatly and didn't matter to me. He decided that he would go to McManns Pub, his regular hangout, on the other end of town for the evening. I had him drop me off at the hostel and I went to bed.

The next day I was to catch the ferry to Innis Orr in the Aran Islands. The pier was a double "5 minute walk" from the hostel so I hitched there. A nice German couple picked me up. They were on their way to hike the Burrans to the Cliffs of Mohar and dropped me off at the pier. I caught the ferry on time.

The sea was a little choppy and it made me appreciate my experience on Navy ships while in the Marines. The ferry was prepared for the landlubbers problem and had a plastic bag dispenser on board just like you find at the checkout counter at the supermarket. Just take one on your way in so you will be ready. Many people lost their breakfast on the way over and their lunch on the way back.

When we arrived at the Island the captain informed us that we would be departing at 2:00 pm sharp, as the tide waits for no man. Otherwise you would be spending the night on the Island, which by the way has a hostel. The village is small and spread out, and mostly closed in the off season. There are 3 pubs but only one was open.

There are about 250 permanent residents on the Island year around. They exist on farming small plots of ground. The settlers had taken sand and seaweed and put in on top of the limestone to form a top soil. Quite an ingenious idea. There are still many earth movers with big buckets on the rear doing this process. Most were parked for the winter when we were there. There were cows, sheep, gardens, and other crops in small , I would call them limestone enclosures, all over the island. Our guide told us that the limestone fences were loosely stacked so the wind could pass through and not knock the fence down but still protect the crops. But I am getting ahead of the story.

The one open pub served lunch. You could have a choice of Grilled Ham and Cheese sandwich with potato wedges ( french fries) or Grilled Ham and Cheese sandwich and potato wedges. That was the menu for the day. Of course you could also have Guinness which they even have for breakfast in Ireland.

Outside the pub were vendors who offered tours of the island . One was a pony cart which was very expensive which is a lot just to smell horse manure. The other was a van for 8 euros run by a gal who was born and raised on the island so knew it very well. I went with the van, having worked horses as a kid I was not impressed with the nostalgia of the pony cart. The tour was fun and informative.

About 1200 it started to rain. So I crawled under an earth mover and took a nap waiting for the 2:00 ferry departure. People passing by would wake me up to see if I was alright which I was till they woke me up. Of course I appreciated their concern and thanked them for checking. At home I could have lay there dead and nobody would check to see if I was alright.

The trip back was like the trip over. We dropped the island only trippers at the dock and set sail for the Cliffs of Mohar. We came very close to the cliffs which are high and majestic. The Captain said they were formed as part of the ocean floor millions of years ago. This gave me a chance to inform him of the account of Noah's flood from the book of Genesis and its perspective on our times.

Arriving back at the pier I hitched back to the hostel where I fixed my supper and sat around talking with the other travelers the rest of the evening. My roommate BEN was from Kentucky. He had met a solo female traveler from Australia and they were touring together around the world. He was a friendly sort. In the morning he had plenty of eggs and bread left so he fixed us all breakfast.

I packed up and caught the 10:00 bus for Killarney. Incidentally it was the only bus.


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Killarney Ireland [Dec. 15th, 2006|10:03 pm]
johnhedge
I understand the name means "church of the rock" I enjoyed this part of the trip as it gave me a look at the "old" Ireland first hand.

I was supposed to stay with a lady who is a member of couchsurfers inc and lives near Bodyke north of Killarney. When I called to confirm she indicated that she had a very hectic schedule and would not be at home much. She indicated that she would put me up as she had agreed too but that it would be a great inconvenience to her .I told that I would make other arrangements. So I booked the Railroad Hostel in Killarney.

The Railroad Hostel is across from the rail-bus station. From the entrance you go 1 block then up a small alley 1/2 block to the hostel. It was raining quite hard so I put on my trusty poncho and walked the block and 1/2 to the hostel.
The hostel is a very nice place well maintained and staffed with friendly helpful people.

My room was on the 1st floor, 2nd floor to me. All the rooms are named after animals. Mine was the Buzzard room I guess because I am an old buzzard. It was a 4 bed dorm room. As POS had suggested I was early so I got my pick of beds.

The restroom is down the hall and it is the first time I have used a unisex bathroom with males and females using it at the same time. Heck I have 4 daughters and we didn't even do that at home. A different experience I must say. It is completely private however with individual enclosed private stalls for everybody.

3 young German guys joined my room and were very helpful and respectful. They treated me just like I was their grandpa. I had gone to the store 3 blocks away and wouldn't you know I forgot to replenish my juice supply to keep my sugar balanced. Well my sugar dropped too low. Felix one of my roommates noticed the problem and when I explained it to him he ran the 3 blocks to the store and came back with a quart of orange juice. That was a lifesaver, as I would have gone into a comma shortly and had severe problems. You may count this kind of thing up to circumstances or luck, but I know that Almighty God had a hand in it all. I praise God for good caring young people.

The next day I took the "5 minute walk" to the town center and looked around. There were the usual stores and shops pubs and restaurants etc. Not much of interest to me. If you have seen one big town you have really seen them all.

Delos Tours runs a Ring of Kerry tour which I was interested in taking. I was able to book it through the hostel for an extra 5 euro fee, but the shuttle picked you up at the door took you to the tour and brought you back after the tour. The tour costs 15 euro and I felt was well worth the money.

The driver-guide has a real heavy Irish accent and it took me awhile to catch on to it. He was extremely well versed in the local history, and gave us a great deal of information as we traveled. He stopped frequently to point out points of intrest and let those who wanted to take pictures.

We stopped at a "Bog Cutters" village, out of the 17-18 century, 8 euro entrance fee, where we saw how the cutters harvested the peat. When cut and dried it burns like charcoal and is a principle source of heat and cooking fuel in the rural regions. They have a hand turned cutter where they cut the peat into squares like building bricks. Then they sell it to create their income. Each cottage has a large pile of these bricks piled up next to it.

They used a pony, looked like a Shetland pony to me, to pull a high wheel cart to traverse the bogs. I understand the peat is about 30 foot deep and there are acres and acres of it.

They also have a special cow called the Kerry cow which is black with white tipped horns. It has a higher butter fat content than regular milk and in the days before the low fat craze it was much in demand. I guess there used to be thousands of them but now they have dwindled to a couple of hundred or so. Half of those are on a national preserve to maintain the breed.

Down the road we stopped at a pub/restaurant which was built into the hillside and had a beautiful view of a lake. It must be a regular stop as they were expecting us. They had an excellent "carvery lunch" the Irish name for a lunch buffet because they carve beef ,ham ,etc to order. I had the beef stew very tasty indeed. We were there about 45 minutes then we stopped at a couple small villages on the way back to Killarney. All in all a very enjoyable informational journey.

The next morning I caught the bus for Waterford
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WATERFORD IRELAND [Dec. 11th, 2006|10:36 pm]
johnhedge
Waterford is a pretty good size town, much bigger than I expected it to be. I didn't see much of it though as my hostel, the Beach Haven Hostel, was about 10 miles south at Tramore. It was right on the beach with the owner also having a B&B next door. I would say it was on a par with the Allie River Hostel as one of the better hostels I stayed at on my journey. I was booked to stay with a Hospitality Club member who is divorced and has extra bedrooms when he doesn't have his kids for the weekend. When I called to confirm he indicated that he had his kids that weekend so was unable to host me. So I booked the Beach House Hostel.

The owner had purchased the property and refurbished it as a hostel. It is the only hostel in the Waterford area. There used to be one in Waterford but it was in a bad area and they turned it into a home for recovering alcoholics. So the Beach House is what you get. It is well worth the stay. Very well maintained and staffed by a Canadian couple. They were very pleasant and helpful. The bus stops right across the street which is convenient.

There are guys and girls dorms on the ground floor and it has uni-sex bathrooms. The hot water is on 8 am to 10 am and 5pm to 8 pm. There are nice large stalls with toilet, sink, and shower in each. There is a mop handy with a sign asking you to mop up after yourself.

The self catering kitchen is downstairs and is clean and well equipped. They clean it every night. The only problem I saw was when 3 Lithuanian guys came in. One of them spoke pigeon English and the other two spoke no English at all. They seem to have a different philosophy in their culture, I generalize as they are the only people from their country that I ever met. In a self catering kitchen everybody brings their own food and does not use anybody elses without their permission. They brought their own food, but if they wanted to use someone elses food they just helped themselves without asking. You couldn't communicate with them and make them understand. They seemed crude and brash to me and did about as they wished.

Anyway back to my tale. There was a roommate named Mac and he and I got along well. Then 3 Irish lads from Wicklow came in. They were 19-20 tears old and talked and giggled like school girls. They stayed out to 3 am and when they came in they talked and giggled quite loudly. I have a 30% loss of hearing in both ears caused by explosions in the Korean conflict and it even bothered me. I finally told them it was 3 am and people were trying to get some sleep. They finally quieted down and went to sleep. When they undressed they just let their clothes fall on the floor. The room was very untidy. They finally ran low on funds and went home.

Now Mac and I thought we would get some peace and quite. Not so. The Litho guys followed the Irish lads and operated in about the same fashion. Loud talking, staying out till 3 am, throwing their stuff on the floor etc. I asked them to quite down but they did not understand what I was saying. These guys were in their 30s and should have known better. The manager must have heard them as he came in and told them to quite down or he would put them out right then even though it was 3 am. That did the trick.

I didn't do much in Tramore. I had made the " 5 minute walk " to the small grocery about 1 mile away for some groceries and that was enough for me. I just kind of hung around the hostel talking with the other travelers and reading.

There was a solo female about 25 years old from Afghanistan named Nageba and she and I had a very interesting discussion. She hated the Taliban, but did not like the Americans much better. She felt we were trying to turn her country into a democracy and maybe they did not want a democracy. They had lived their way for 1000s of years and did not want to change.

I made the bus ride to the Waterford Crystal Factory in Waterford. I got as far as the showroom and couldn't go any further. I would have liked to take the factory tour, but couldn't handle any more " 5 minute walks ". My daughter wanted a 1 stem rose vase so I ordered it there. They were to ship it to me in the US as I didn't want to risk breaking it as it was quite expensive. It is a long story but 60 days later I still haven't seen it. They misplaced my order and couldn't find it although my credit card was charged for it. After several e-mails I told them to forget it and ordered it from the Internet. It cost me $50.00 more but it was for a special occasion and timing was important. Now I receive an e-mail saying my order has been shipped on Nov 20. from Ireland. More e-mails I guess.
Anyway I digress back to the trip.

I left the factory and went to the bus stop. The bus went right by me and stopped down the road, seems they changed the stop but not the sign. A couple in their mid 40s pulled up and asked me where I was trying to get to. I told them Tramore and they said get in we will take you there, we are just out for a drive anyway. So they drove me to Tramore and dropped me right in front of my hostel.

The next day I packed up to go to Dublin airport. When I travel I tend to eat oatmeal for breakfast, pack a sandwich for lunch and fix a proper supper. I used up the last of my supplies to make 2 sandwiches, one for lunch and one for supper at the airport. The rest of my non perishable supplies I left in the " free food " area at the hostel. It is an area where unwanted, or I should say unneeded food is left for whoever can use it.

Then I caught the bus into Waterford to connect with the Dublin bus. `
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