Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ireland 2013 – Day 6 – Killarney

Even though we had a reasonable start in the morning, the day simply evaporated without much to show for. Breakfast was luxurious, a we are getting unto our stride and incorporate into breakfast the leftovers of the previous day. Afterward we went to the town of Killarney, where we visited their modernized cathedral. They did a great job at combining the original Neo-Gothic of the 1850’s with modern looking crosses and effigies.

We then walked to downtown, where we rented a couple of bikes and went wandering through the Killarney National Park. The details are a little fuzzy, but it seems an Irish American man rescued a large tract of lake and forest from development (he bought out the other investors), and then gifted it to the state. This must had been the kernel of what was to become the National Park, which today starts but a wall away from the city. We were enchanted biking through the forest, which originally had been the land of the Chieftain O’Donogheu (Irish), and later became the estate of the Earl of Killarney (English), and which includes a large lake. After half an hour we came to the tower/castle of the Chieftain, which was restored in the 1980’s and is now one of the best preserved in Ireland. We took the guided tour of the tower and learned much about the way in which these towers were built, lived in, and used to repel attackers.

We continued our bike ride but somehow managed to miss the road around the lake, ended in a cute little peninsula, and had to backtrack all the way into town. At that time it was beginning to get chilly and it was time to get lunch. We found a family restaurant packed with locals, and had a fabulous meal with leg of lamb with a mint sauce, braised pork chops, all the potatoes one could ever ask for, and tasty dessert of Apple Madeira with Custard and rice pudding. By the time we rolled out of the restaurant the notion of undertaking a long distance trek in the bikes had lost its appeal. We went around the town for the sake of form, but soon came back to the bike shop to turn in our trusty steeds.

We had had the plan of driving the Ring of Kerry (the road that goes all along the periphery of the Kerry Peninsula), but our friend from the bike shop told us that it took a full day to drive the whole thing, assuming you stopped here and there, or at least four hours to drive it non-stop (although he made it clear that he wouldn’t think much of a tourist who would commit such a sacrilege). So, we agreed that you cannot see it all, and instead opted for a short circuit around the McGillycuddy Reeks, the local mountain range. It was a very beautiful drive, in a road so narrow that the car was scraping on both sides at the same time. Annie timed her comments to perfection, so whenever she said “Look, how pretty” a car would come flying in the opposite direction and I would have to stand on the breaks and back to the nearest opening, and then watch in horror as the other car passed us with about a millimeter width to spare.

For a change we made it back to the hostel by 6 pm, which gave me time to slow cook my famous Irish lamb stew. In the meantime Annie got in the internet and talked to Kait on Skype, e-mailed Katie and Jake, and we both read in the library room of the manor where the youth hostel is hosted, and even took a snooze or two. At 7 we sat down to dinner, and found that the stew was even more delicious than we had expected (and our expectations are pretty high).

Well, every traveler deserves a lazy day from time to time.

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