Shamrocker, Cowandas, Blarney in Killarney
23 Apr 2012
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Monday 23rd Tour Day 1
Dublin - Killarney
An early breakfast this morning as we meet our tour guide at 8.15 to head away on the seven day bus tour of Ireland with Shamrocker. We don’t have to go far to meet him, there is an office at the bottom of the stairs in our hostel. However we don’t leave Dublin around 9am, after taking a walk through the streets to meet our bus (they are not allowed to use the stop outside the hostel). It is a bigger tour group than expected, as we are joined by those doing a five day tour. We have thirty six on the tour now. Introductions all around, a bit like an AA meeting, we have Kiwi, Aussie, US, Switzerland, Saffa, and Canada on tour. There are some family groups, parents about our age, with older kids, a good mix of people. One of the first things Dave tells us is that "Feck" is a polite way of saying another word with many of us are familiar, and that people from all walks of life will use it as it is not considered offensive. Can't quite figure that one...
Dave also tells us about “Saint” Patrick. Tony knew he was Welsh, not Irish, but didn’t know he was never actually a saint. As for snakes, well Dave tells us there were no fecking snakes in Ireland, it is thought that is a reference to converting pagans to Christianity. Christianity was already in Ireland, but it was St Patrick who spread the word. Many Christian symbols include pagan symbols, the reason for this being that the Pagans never wrote anything down. They considered if it was important enough it would be remembered, and generally thought of the Christians as stupid because they had to keep their works written (in the bible). So to encourage the pagans to Christianity they began incorporating pagan symbols into the existing Christian ones. There are many examples, but a common one would be the high cross with the circle linking the arms representing the sun.
We head south west where the countryside is a lush green. After a coffee stop at Abbeyleux we make our way to the Rock of Cashel, once the seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. We pass through the Golden Vale to Blarney Castle in the “rebel county” of Cork.
Blarney Castle (Irish: Caisleán na Blarnan) is a medieval stronghold, the current keep dates from 1446. The noted Blarney Stone is found at this castle. Only one or two people from the tour wont kiss the Blarney, something about too many germs… and we really don’t want to be thinking about that.
To plant a smacker on the stone you have to lie on your back, hang on to a couple of bars, and lower yourself out and back up under the stone, pashing it from underneath. You don’t want to be looking down before you try this either. There is a guide beside you holding on to stop you slipping, you just hope he has a bloody good grip! They want EUR10 for each photo and a certificate, but we got good enough pictures ourselves, so no thanks, and keep the twenty in our pockets.
We only have ninety minutes here to tour the castle and have lunch, so it is a bit rushed. We choose to spend a bit more time in the gardens, and get back to the carpark with just enough time to rush to the supermarket for a sandwich.
We drive through some beautiful countryside, and our guide Dave has obviously been at the Blarney again as he points out a new breed of animal, a Cowanda, which is a cross between a cow and a panda. Didn’t have time to get a photo, so had to nick one off the internet. We have to do some checking to find out the breed of cow, but it is a Belted Galloway, black at each end, and white in the middle. A few days later there were still people on the tour that believed what Dave told them, haha.
Our first night is in Killarney, there are six in our room at Neptunes hostel, our room cost EUR15 ea. Tony gets a text from Cynthea, she and Geraldine are across the road at the pub having coffee, so he goes to catch up with them, but they are nowhere to be found. It doesn’t help that there are several pubs across the road, and that they were in the very back bar. While Tony is waiting for the girls to finish their drink the owner comes over and apologies to the girls for giving them their lattes in the wrong type of glass, so these drinks are on the house. The girls were not at all worried that the glass was the wrong sort, so we had to stay for another round, didn’t seem right to have a free drink and bugger off. The owner tells us we have to come back at 9pm for the Irish music, but we already have something else arranged.
We try to find the supermarket, but it is elusive, could be something to do with the accents when we get given directions! We finally find Tescos and walk in, but we are asked to leave, apparently it is closed. So, one would wonder, why the hell did the door open to let us in? We traipse the streets looking for a cheap feed, and decide on a starter back at the pub we just left. The owner spots us and tells us we are too early (for the music). They are busy and it takes ages to take our order, but the food arrives very quickly.
Then we are off to another pub where Dave, our tour guide, has organised a local storyteller, we were not quite sure what to expect from him. His name is Pa, and he drinks like a fish, Guinness of course, though Dave tells us he was “pacing” himself that night, and Pa has been seen to drink much more in a story session.
We got a few old jokes, a few stories, and lots of laughs. At times he starts shouting as he tells the story, buggered if we know why because we weren’t falling asleep or anything like that, and it did nothing enhance the tale. Throughout the evening he reminds us that there is a money back guarantee, he will give us all a refund if he doesn’t like it. When he is out of the room Tony suggests we all do it as a joke, but no one is game.
At the end of the night Pa gets all the guys outside to tell us a secret, one that the girls must never know. Tony’s lips are sealed… Then we all head off to a “night club” with Dave, he will get us free entry instead of the EUR10 charge, so we all wander over for a look. The music is not that great when we arrive, but there is change soon after and they start playing some good tunes, and quite well. Just a bit on the loud side for the old folks. We stay a while, but it is getting late so we head back to the hostel with a few others around midnight.