Irish Road Trip and Pub Tour – Day 3

I’ve noticed something very interesting. It’s something that happens on any vacation. Lack of sleep is no longer an issue. Now I’m a born insomniac. I can never sleep thru the night.

April 8, 2005 – Third Day in Ireland

Muckross House
I’ve noticed something very interesting. It’s something that happens on any vacation. Lack of sleep is no longer an issue. Now I’m a born insomniac. I can never sleep thru the night. At least not more than a few hours at a clip. The difference at home is that this will affect me the whole next day. I’ll find myself drifting off at all times. On the bus, at my desk, after dinner. All of which further retards my ability to sleep at night, compounding the frustration as the days pass. However, on vacation … not a problem. Somehow four hours of sleep a day is plenty. Of course this is due to the absence of all other stresses making my insomnia little to worry about. Besides, it can actually work to my advantage. Such as on this day as we visit the beautiful Muckross House and drive the breathtaking Ring of Kerry.

Scottish architect William Burn designed the Muckross house for the Herbert family and building commenced in 1839. We were all impressed by the fact that it took just over 3 years to complete. Especially when we were told of how long it took to do renovations for a certain visitor.

In the mid 1850s, the Herberts began preparations for a visit by Queen Victoria. It took over 6 years. Apparently the Queen had a paranoia about fire. So among the many renovations was the addition of a fire escape outside of her bedroom window. What makes this a bit silly was that the Queen insisted that her quarters be on the ground floor.

Situated on the shores of Muckross Lake, the house is a key attraction in Killarney National Park. In fact the park came into being in 1932 when then proprietors Senator Arthur Vincent and his parents-in-law Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn presented the property to Ireland in memory of his late wife Maud.

The park covers over 25,000 acres of mountains, wetlands and forest. It is truly a magnificent view from the house. This area, as well as much of Ireland’s wilderness, is among the most popular fishing holes in the world. Too bad I don’t like seafood.

The house also has a long running reputation for impressive gardens including the Sunken Garden and Rock Garden which were added in the early 20th Century.

Our First Tourist Trap
We came to what would turn out to be our first real tourist trap. Now the people running the Scarriff Inn were kind and warm folks. However, you enter the restaurant by first passing thru the gift shop. OK Fair enough. They have to make a living. Nothing too outrageous here. Your typical souvenir type ware. I just walked on to the food. As usual, my belly dictated my wallet’s course of action.

I ordered a small salad, lamb stew and a coke. Price … €19.80!! Damn!! That was pricier than NYC! And I know that I would not eat a $15.00 hamburger at Mars 2112 if I could get one for $5.00 at the Art Cafe just a few doors up the street. Unfortunately this was not Times Square. It was a trap in every sense of the word. There were no other places to eat for miles. Plus, as was pointed out to me several times, you’re paying for the view.

I do admit that the food was delicious and the view was spectacular. I was also impressed by the “God Bless America” paraphernalia that was strewn about, not just this place, but many places. I know that America, especially NYC, is tied tightly to the history of the Irish people. And I truly enjoy discovering how many people love Americans and our culture but simply disagree with our government. Hell, so do I. So when people tell you that Europeans hate Americans, it’s simply not true. Ask them how they feel about America however, you may get a different reaction.

Back on the bus and ready to roll when an interesting factoid about the Irish language came up regarding the street signs here. In some smaller towns, street signs are strictly in Irish. Most if not all of those in larger, more heavily visited areas are in both English and Irish. This is due mainly because, during the latter half of the 20th century, after Ireland had reclaimed it’s independence from the UK, there was a resurgence of the Irish language.

There is a movement now that insists that, if they are to continue having bilingual street signs, the Irish should be the dominant feature. A public relations move to be sure, but considering that the Irish people have been speaking English for a very short time in their very long history, it’s a fair request.

At least one TV channel (though I’m sure there are more) is in Irish. Try watching cartoons in the old language when you’re just a wee bit buzzed. It’ll confuse the hell outta ya!!

The Ring of Kerry: Torc Waterfall
Yes, I admit to singing a bad parody of Ring of Fire. May the spirit of Johnny Cash forgive me.

The Ring of Kerry covers about 170 miles of the southern Irish wilderness. Fantastic for biking, hiking, camping or whatever other outdoor pursuits you enjoy. Including golf. Yes golf is huge in Ireland. I was in pubs with people glued to the TV. Cheering, booing, yelling. I thought it was a rugby or hurling match or something equally as exciting. Nope, it was Tiger Woods in Augusta Georgia.

It’s not strictly a spectator sport either. The countryside is lined with courses. Don’t ask me how they play with this wind. As with other places here, the wind is intense. Full grown men found it near impossible to keep their footing with each gust. I can’t imagine a small white ball in mid-air finding it’s target.

Our next stop was the Torc Waterfall. In a moss-covered wooded area such as this, I could easily understand and appreciate the origins of Celtic mythology. I can picture these twisted branches and humps of rock covered in lush mystery coming to life. It’s not hard to imagine the society of little creatures that could be residing just below the surface or in among the tangled greenery. And the air is pure but thick with history (that and humidity).

A few of us decided to walk up what appeared to be an endless staircase of rock. We were careful not to step off course and into the deep, wet muck that surrounded us. Upon reaching what we thought was the top, we discovered more stairs. Endless indeed. So we turned and decended back towards the rumbling of the falls. Stopping for a moment to take in the view.

Most of what we’d be doing on jaunts like this would be taking in the view, stopping to take pictures and—as far as I was concerned—reflect on life, the vastness of nature and my meager part therein.

Dinner, Dancing & Celebrity Sightings
Dinner was at a place called O’Leary’s. A rustic, VFW looking place. In fact they had American Legion placards all over the place. I snapped a few shots of those from New Jersey.

“We are out of the Fisherman’s Platter Special and we have no Sole”

“You have no soul?” I asked.

“Yes it’s true, we are a very dark people here.” She replied with a devious smile.

I ordered the Pork with Banana Fritters just because I was curious. Of course that was after I ordered the Sole just for laughs. When my meal came and with us being a couple of days into the trip, one stereotype was becoming apparent as fact. Potatoes. Every dish it seems not only has a potato side but, as was the case tonight, the meat sits on a bed of mashed potatoes. As for the fritter, a full-sized, deep-fried banana. No complaints from me. Hell, they could have easily reused the plate without cleaning when I was done. I was glad though that I did not order the Chicken Corden Blu. Two breaded chicken breasts with their version of bacon (ham) and cheddar cheese. Served on a bead of mashed potatoes of course.

Then it was off to the “Famous Danny Mann Pub” or so the sign says. Actually it is a landmark in Killarney providing music and drink to locals and tourists alike for over 20 years. This night we were entertained by The Molly McGuires doing the usual Irish standards. They did a fine job of getting the drunken youth—dressed as if at a low budget wedding—to jump around during the songs. Sadly though they continued this ruckus as the singer tried to tell clever tales in between songs. I think what struck me was that he seemed totally unphased and just kept talking as if we could hear him.

Among the crowd was a nice couple from Chicago in town to visit their son and Russia’s President Putin. OK, not really on the latter, but a remarkable likeness. He was hitting on many of the women and was finely escorted out by one of the Danny Mann bouncers. We also thought we saw Donald Sutherland drinking at one of the tables. This lead to a game of celebrity sightings. Robin Williams played the Bodhran and sang for the band. Isaac Mizrahi was part of our group, as was Donald Trump.

We continued spending a good deal of time playing such trivial games. Earlier this evening we were trying to list the top ten most quotable movies. The list went way beyond ten. The we all were to name our favorite comedy of all times. Mine was Blazing Saddles for countless reasons, but mainly because it has the most brilliantly executed mayhem and chaos filled ending than any movie … ever.

Corn on the Pizza
The one-eyed Frenchman made an encore appearance. As we were making our way back to the Hotel and searching for a late-night snack, I saw him. He saw me and after a confused moment lead into recognition he greeted me with a hug … “Hey!! My American friends!! You want to come have a drink?”

“Oh we can’t. We have to meet our friends and we’re late.” This was not a lie. We were still unsure of the location of the secret hotel bar and didn’t want to miss out as we did the night before. And we were still in search of late night food.

We found Four Star Pizza still open. Pizza in Ireland was described as cardboard and ketchup. As New Yorkers, we were well advised to stay away. But being strangers here and unaware of any other place that would be open at this ungodly hour, Morgan and I broke from the pack to order up a Super Deluxe 9″ pie. No slices available. After 15 minutes and €11.00, we took our pizza back to the hotel. As we opened the box, we realized that we did not read far enough into the description as we noticed the corn. Yes, corn on the pizza. What the hell were they thinking?

Not that removing the corn would have made much of a difference. It was truly terrible, but we were truly hungry. We’d later discover that there was a Burger King just a short walk away from where we were. So if you ever find yourself in Killarney late at night and hungry, do yourself a favor, avoid the pizza and seek out the Burger King.

I’m not sure exactly what time it was, but when we returned to the hotel, the main bar was still open, just not serving. So we waited until the rest of the group made there way to the secret bar under the stairs. I could picture this being a bar that Harry Potter would like, provided he had a sense of humor large enough to get over the anguish of his teen upbringing.

Our bartender was Jimmy or Timmy, not quite sure which since I was joking that Timmy was concierge and Jimmy was his evil bartending twin. A few whiskeys later and the humor was overshadowed by my own confusion. He informed us that he was working until 7:30 AM. Try as we might, we just could not make it an all-nighter. One by one we fell off and retired to our rooms to briefly sleep and prepare for the next day’s journey to Galway.

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