Sunday, April 13, 2014

Travels with Dad: Rumors, Ruins, and the Road

Dad in his Ireland green.
Had to get a chuckle here yesterday. Dad had picked up a rumor online while doing his Ireland trip prep. He had read that visitors should bring their own washcloths, because the hotels in Ireland don't provide washcloths.

My response was, "Dad, we are staying in four- and five-star hotels, for goodness' sake! Of *course* they're going to have washcloths!" He said he'd pack a few, just in case.

Heritage Golf and Spa Resort? In County Laois? Five-star hotel with three restaurants, huge spa area, fantastic golf course, live music in the lobby as the guests registered and all evening, fireplace in a comfy lounge area off the lobby where guests could mingle and relax with a refreshing drink? Yeah, that place. In our room there was a gorgeously appointed, large bathroom with a separate large bathtub, large towel-drying rack, large fancy shower with glass doors, huge sink and counter with all the amenities ... and not a washcloth in sight. I am still getting the taste of crow out of my mouth. (And, by the way, the crows here are HUGE. I think they've been genetically modified.)

After saying goodbye to The Heritage, we made our way down into and through Portlaoise, and thought about stopping at the Methodist church in Mountmellick, which was just a lovely little town, but we were there about an hour after service started. It was Palm Sunday, after all, and we knew there'd be no time for a service on Easter, which is when we have to fly home. Then - thanks to our trusty GPS unit - we went looking for and found The Rock of Dunamase, also known as Dunamase Castle.

I've put up plenty more photos on my Facebook page, but here's a selfie as I climbed up and into the castle ruins. This is what's left standing of the Barbican Gate with the Main Gate in the background.

This fortification was built by Christians in the 800s and later pillaged by the Vikings, then taken over by the Normans, who held it for many years. Later it was forfeited to England, then eventually returned to the Irish O'Moore family, who essentially ignored the holdings and they were abandoned. You can read a bit more about it from the County Laois Council.

From there it was on to Galway, on Ireland's west coast, where we will spend the next two nights. Not being dead on my feet, it turns out, greatly improves my ability to drive a car, and we arrived safely (thanks, Garmin) without a single person honking at us. It probably helped that it was Palm Sunday afternoon, and you could count the number of cars on the road at any one time with two hands.

I must give a shout out to whomever is responsible for the condition of Irish roads. Every one we have been on (so far) - even the narrow, windy, country lanes where we traveled a bit when we missed our turn while getting to know the Garmin - have been in *excellent* condition. I think we've seen ONE pothole, and the roads and countryside have been immaculate. No litter. And not one. Single. Billboard. On the whole, the choice to drive has been a solid one and the beautiful thing is we can stop whenever we want, with no timetable or tour schedule to keep.

Full disclosure - I did train postal employees how to operate a right-hand drive vehicle and taught refresher driver training courses for almost 20 years with the Postal Service, so I am definitely seeing where that experience has given me an edge in driving here.


When we arrived in Galway, our next hotel was the Glenlo Abbey Resort in Bushy Park, which could not have been more distinctly different in scope and feel than The Heritage. Where The Heritage felt nearly brand new, the Abbey is built on the grounds, site, and remains of a monastery created in the 1700s. Several of the rooms used in the 1700s were simply refurbished into a Business Centre, Library, and Lounge area.
A testament to the age of the Abbey - they still use real room keys!
Out behind the Abbey they have placed four antique railroad cars that have been remodeled into a diner. These railroad cars were once used on the Orient Express. And, of course, Ireland wouldn't be Ireland without the requisite golf course at the resort. All in all, it's lovely and some of the doorways still have the pointy arched lintel that marks it as a former House of Worship.

And yes, they provided washcloths.


Mark's Musings is published on a semi-periodical basis that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at Facebook link is over there to the right. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Tomorrow: Up into Connemara!

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