The ship did rock and roll last night. Made getting to the bathroom an adventure. Nothing fell off the shelves though so that was a plus. This was a very early day as we had to meet the group in the Showroom at 7:30 so we could collect our tender tickets together to try and be on the first tender over to the dock in Foynes. Today there is another couple joining the group so I sure hoped the van would be bigger.
This port stop has changed numerous times. First, it was going to be 8:00 to 6:00 and we were going to dock. Then we get the letter indicating it would be a tender port from 7:30 to 4:30. Now we are being informed it is still a tender port but are times are 7:30 to 5:30. Wreaks havoc on the tours.
When we tendered over, the ramp leading from the dock to the port area was very steep. One of the dock workers said the ship timed the low tide wrong. Go figure. With all the changes, we still get it wrong. I don’t know how some of the people with walkers and canes made it up the ramp. I had to hold on to each side to help pull myself up.
We were met by our guide Gary at the top and he had a nice Mercedes van that even had small tables so at least we had more room than yesterday. We left the port village of Foynes headed to our first stop – the Bunratty Castle and its Folk Park. If we had known that it was going to be overrun with children on their end-of-the-school-year field trip, we probably would have said just skip it.
The Bunratty Castle site passed through several noble families. The present castle was built on the site in 1425. It passed through several more families until it was abandoned in 1804. It was bought by the Shannon Heritage Foundation in the 1950’s and was restored and opened to the public with the Folk Village in the 1960’s.
We were back on the Wild Atlantic Way today and the drive took about an hour and we got there just at opening time. We also got there as children were pouring out of school busses and being herded into lines by teachers and parents. Doesn’t matter where you come from, excited children squeal when they are happy – at ear piercing levels.
Even though we had printed out our passes, we had to wait in line to exchange those passes for tickets. We had to wait until the teacher in charge of the children got all of their tickets. Only one ticket-taker even though there were empty cashier booths. Couldn’t someone see that the line was getting longer and longer? Not a great start.
We walked toward the Castle looking through some of the cottages that represented the town – similar to what we saw yesterday except these all were from the time period of the castle. The doctor’s house was nice. The itinerant farmer’s house – not so much.
They also had sections of various farm animals and free roaming chickens. The children got really excited when they saw the chickens and would try to pet them — Ooooh! CHICKENS! Chickens can move pretty fast if they have to especially when pursued by eager children.
There was a long line of children at the entrance of the Castle so we decided to take an alternate entrance. Turned out to be the exit but with a little maneuvering we found ourselves in the Great Hall. I liked the tapestries. We climbed up a couple of the winding narrow staircases to the very top. The stairs were so narrow, Chuck’s shoulders rubbed the sides. The views were impressive at the top.
Once we looked around as much as we wanted to in the Castle, we explored the village a little more. Chuck got in trouble with the local constable. We even found the Fairy Walk. I really liked the Irish Wolfhound. I had never seen that breed except in a movie.
We spent a couple of hours at this site and now it was time to drive to the Cliffs of Mohr.
The cliffs run for about 9 miles. At their southern end, they rise 390 ft above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and, they reach their maximum height of 702 ft just north of O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs, built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O’Brien. He was ridiculed when he built it but he said “people will come.” He was right. The Cliffs get over a million visitors per year. I was excited to see them because they were featured in the movie “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
It felt like a million people when we got there. We paid our 5 euros each (senior discount) and started making our way up the path. We chose to go left first. The path was paved for a while and that land and someone’s farm land were separated by a barbed wire fence (that said it was electrified – didn’t see anyone testing it) and some enormous bulls were lounging around oblivious to the people.
The “official” path ended at a gate and there were 2 unpaved paths. The paths were separated by a stone wall about knee high. I stayed on the path behind the wall “safe” – Chuck went on the path next to the cliff edge “unsafe.” There was even a sign that warned of crumbling cliff edges. I finally talked him into coming over to the safe side.
We later learned from the guide that several people have fallen over the Cliffs taking “selfies” and it is a popular place for suicides. Didn’t read about that in the brochures.
We then came back down and walked the path to the right to get a different view of the cliffs. We walked as far as the O’Brien’s Tower. It was under repair so nobody could go up into it. Again, the views were stunning. Again, lots and lots of people.
I had hoped to see Puffins but I didn’t. Missed them in Alaska. Missed them here. Disappointing. Did see a lot of sea gulls.
It was very windy and cold. We could have walked farther down the path but decided to go check out the Visitor Center. It was very nice and we watched a movie about the cliffs. It was one of those surround screen theaters that made you feel that you were flying like one of the cliff birds. I found out that Puffins are usually only seen in the mornings as they take off in search of food most of the day. I did like all the exhibits.
The café was crowded so we didn’t get anything to eat. That decision turned out to be a mistake. I did buy a Puffin Christmas ornament. I thought the stores were interesting as they were built into the hillside. Looked like Hobbit houses.
We were now on the way back and we didn’t have any other extended stop. Just a couple of photo opportunities in Limerick. I was glad I had a couple of granola bars for a snack. The first photo stop was a wall – the last remaining wall of the Bourke House which was built in 1168. The next stop was St. Mary’s Cathedral. Originally the Church was the Royal Palace for the Kings of Thomond and it was gifted to the Church in 1168. It is the oldest building in Limerick that is still in daily use.
We were back at the tender port by 4:15 and back to the ship by 4:45. I was glad because I was hungry. We decided we’d go back to the Lido for dinner. I had pizza. Chuck had a sampling from the dinner section. I also had to have some of the hand-dipped ice cream. The Ice Cream man is funny. He is always cracking jokes. Everyone always smiles when they are there. But, who doesn’t smile when getting ice cream?
I also discovered some days ago that in the afternoon, the Coffee bar has giant warm chocolate chip cookies (for free). I wonder why my pants are getting tight.
We went to the show tonight – the comedian Rikki Jay. He was pretty funny but he kept running from one side of the room to the other which was kind of annoying.
Tomorrow is another port day but at least we don’t arrive until 11:00 so we don’t have to get up as early as we have been. Thank goodness.
Tonight’s towel animal is a monkey.
The Irish Coffee was said to be invented in Foynes.
Limerick, Ireland’s third largest city, was founded by the Vikings in 812. It is the home of author Frank McCort who wrote Angela’s Ashes.