Thursday, May 14, 2009

A familiar accent brightens the bumpy road

This morning we woke to brilliant grey skies - yet again. What IS it with this weather??
Despite wanting an earlier night last night, it was well after 1am when we finally hit the sack, so it is up still feeling a little tired this morning. Didn't do a big breakfast - just muesli and juice and then finish packing the car. I finally managed to get on to Brooke this morning and we make arrangements to meet her at
work tonight in Tralee.
Sean from the Arús Apartments is downstairs when we leave just before 10 am and chats with us about what we got to see while we were in Galway. When we were telling him, it did not sound at all too bad what we managed to see (even with me out of action some of the time!)
So we head south again. It seems to take forever to get out of Galway and all its roundabouts - 1st gear, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, sometimes 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd again and again and again. From memory we go through about 2 dozen. The traffic going into the City is particularly heavy this morning and I am thankful that we are not amidst it all. And despite being very overcast, at this point it is dry for which we are also thankful.

One of the first lot of photos we try to capture are of the terrible road conditions in Gort. Interestingly, there are signs at the north and south entrances to the town that make apologies for the state of their town. Turns out they are doing battle with the bureaucracies all around the building of a bypass that is resulting in different traffic movements. Read all about it here. Even though the photos look bad, they really cannot capture just how bad this road is at the moment. You have to feel for the locals or the commuters who put up with it day in and day out - doing all of about 20 kph to try to protect their vehicles. Never never again will I complain about the state of Australian roads (well, at least not while we are travelling)!

And while we are on the subject of things bureaucratic, there are a number of elections about to be held in Ireland. The 2009 Irish local elections will be held in all the counties and county boroughs of Ireland on 5 June 2009, on the same day as the European Parliament elections and two by-elections (Dublin South and Dublin Central). So you can imagine what the roadside political pollution is like at the moment. Never never again will I complain about the amount of advertising during our elections. Here, candidate banners are on EVERY light post - and no, that is not an exaggeration.

Our first stop is at Adare which markets itself as Ireland's prettiest town. It has part of the main street filled with a long row of thatched buildings as well as the most beautiful Town Park and fascinating historic buildings in the 13th century monastic church with its dovecote and the nearby Desmond Castle (different to the one on Tuesday) that is on private grounds and can only be visited on a tour. Seems there are more than a few former open historic buildings - former churches and baronial homes that are the same here - talk about capturing the tourist buck!

The Trinitarian Priory was actually more ornate than I remembered it - dark and quiet and quite beautiful. Bit hard to comprehend that it is still in use as it has been continuously for more than 700 years. The Dovecote adjoins a new school built behind the church - very new in architectural style but sympathetic to the church buildings with gables and roof lines the same as the church. Another thing is as I remembered it from my visit with Mum almost 3 years ago - the size of the flowers is amazing - and yes Mum, the poppies were in bloom again and you should see the BIG tulips!!!!

We were hungry for lunch for the first time in ages so stopped at the Blue Door Restaurant in the main street for a bite. First ones in I think. We ordered coffee and baps. The coffee was fantastic and nice and hot. Michael ordered the Chicken Bap with Madras curry mayonnaise and I got the Ham and melted cheese Bap with tomato relish. They were both served with fresh salad and fine shoestring chips that were so delish (even if not too healthy). Very satisfying and stick-to-the-ribs kind of food.

Back on the road and the rain finely hits - with a vengeance. And we are stuck with it all the way to Tralee. There is a huge traffic jam when we get here - turns out the Council workers are repairing a hole in the road in the main street - a narrow little street so the traffic is horrendous. Still, they are working very quickly and by the time we drive passed for the third time (trying to get parking anywhere near the hotel) they have finished and are sweeping off the road - I am impressed - I have never seen council workers move so fast. We take a short drive into the Dingle, but the weather has really set in and there is not point going any farther - with the low cloud and rain we can't see a real lot! So back to the Grand Hotel to check in and start todays blog so we can get to bed earlier after we dine with Brooke!

Its now pm and we are just back from dinner at The Station House Bar and Grill. As Brooke was the only girl working tonight it was easy to find her! She is lovely and warm and very welcoming, while apologising that they are busy so she won't be able to give us much time yet. Didn't matter - she was like a little mother hen, checking that everything was OK many times. Kinda got the feeling (you were right Ally) that she was pleased to see some other Aussies!

She makes some great recommendations for dinner choices and we had a delicious and very filling meal - helping sizes were generous! Our choices? As follows:
Calamari RIngs breaded in herbs and chilli, served with salad, lemon and dips (sweet chilli, avovado and yoghurt) Michael
Arancini - breaded rice ball stuffed with wild mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella and basil (Maria)
We both opted for 1/2 lb beef burgers with onion relish, beef tomato, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and hickory BBQ sauce, served with hand cut chunky chips. The chips were something else - HUGE chunks of potatoes with us each having a 2 potato stack!
Desserts: (yep, we were persuaded)
Apple tart (galette style) served with ice cream - Michael
Chocolate mousse with cream (not that sweet gooey stuff, a rich full cream not sweet chocolate confection) started by Maria, finished by Michael

We had a laugh at the following sentence written on the menu:
"Dear customers, this is a recession free zone . . . anyone caught speaking about it will be asked to sit outside with The Grinch" - too bad it did not also include talk about the US and Iraq - then the loud and opinionated American might have been moved on!

Brooke finally finished about 10 pm and rather than stay and have a drink at her workplace, we all drove back in to town (in the rain) and tried Séan Óg’s firstly but when we could hardly get in the door, let alone find somewhere to sit and chat with a drink, opted to go to The Abbey. We were lucky enough to beat the crowd and got a nook to sit with our drinks. The music cranked up after a little while though meaning that we yelled more than talked! Exchanged lots of goss and plenty of travel tips. Who knows - we might just meet up with Brooke and her sister Kerry when they are travelling in Europe later in the year. Stay cool Brooke - it was a pleasure to meet such a pleasant young lady. And thanks also to Brooke's workmate, Gerard, behind the bar for a memorable night.

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