Carnets de voyage

Trip Information

Sea of Celtic Crosses
Sea of Celtic Crosses (11)
Trip Date:2002-04-19 - 2002-04-21
# Photos:1 [View]
Countries visited:Irlande
Vue: 4499
The whole idea for this trip began with my father. I don't recall if he had heard of the Celtic Festival or just wanted to go as a family, but he mentioned it, and started making plans for April 2001. It didn't happen that year, but it did cause my mom to renew her passport in anticipation, and we started planning it for April 2002.

Then, in January, dad got confirmation of a trade with his timeshare, for April 20th through the 27th, and we started planning in earnest. The place we were staying at was owned by The Seasons, and had been a 12th century abbey, converted into a manor house sometime in the 18th century. In its current incarnation, it was a cozy resort with about 6 suites in the main house, and 7 cabins attached in a row along the grounds. We were told that the in-house restaurant, the Black Abbot, was closed for renovation during our stay, but that there were nearby eating facilities in the town of Knocktopher.
In January, dad bought the tickets for our flight on, from PBI to JFK, and then on to Dublin. However, after he purchased them, he realized that the flight out of PBI came into La Guardia, while the other left from JFK, so he bought a new set on Travelocity, both legs going into and out of JFK. Little did we know at the time that these tickets were also not quite correct!

We received the Expedia tickets first, and checked everything out. The Travelocity tickets came second, and I cancelled the incorrect Expedia ones.

I started doing some research into things to do, as dad said the itinerary was up to me. Since we were based in Kilkenny, which is about in the middle of southern Ireland, I figured day trips should be only as far as Dublin or Kerry, and went on from there.

A couple of things I had on my list were not to happen, I'm afraid. The original reason for the trip, the Pan-Celtic Festival, was changed from April 19-22nd to April 4-7th, and it was too late to change our plans. The Viking Medieval Feast, which sounded touristy but fun, turned out to be closed in 2002 for renovation. However, I was able to arrange with Anne McCaffrey to meet her while we were there, and I think that more than made up for what we missed.

A week before the trip, my co-worker asked me what time I left. I pulled out the tickets, and noticed (to my horror!) that they were dated Jan 30 and Feb 1, rather than Apr 19 and 27! After several frantic phone calls to Travelocity, they graciously admitted that the trip had never been taken, so we could use those tickets towards the purchase of the correct ones. However, I had to Fedex the original tickets to Travelocity in Texas, before they could reissue tickets to me, so I did. I called the next day when they had them, and they reissued new tickets, at an additional charge of $600 each!!!!! Since the flight from south Florida to New York is so popular in April (snowbirds flying home) those are premium seats, and to purchase a week before flight is even worse. I asked to speak to a manager to complain, and decided to check the Travelocity website while I waited, to see what the difference is between purchasing a ticket 7 days in advance to, say, 8 days in advance. I noticed that there was a flight from PBI to JFK, with a stop in Atlanta, for only $290 each! Only about $150 more than the original tickets for that leg were!

When the manager made it to the phone, I questioned her about this. She said she didn't realize I wanted a connection!? I think she didn't realize I wasn't going to take a $1200 bill so easily!

We had them reissue the tickets as Etickets, and we were on our way (finally!)

April 19th

The day of the trip, we woke up around 9am, and finished our last minute packing. Jason only had one bag, which he was taking as carry-on, and I had a carry-on and a suitcase to be checked.

Todd drove us to the airport; we got there at 10am (our flight left at 1pm). There was a very long line inside, but since we were (ultimately) an international flight, we couldn't check our baggage curbside. We got in, checked our luggage (almost forgot to tell the attendant about our further flight to Dublin, as they are on different airlines, Delta and American) and went on to the security line.

This line was also very, very long, but it went pretty quickly. Jason got stopped for a tack in his shoe, he took it in good humor, and was sort of impressed that they would find a tack in his shoe.

We got to our area just before they were boarding, and Jason went to get a snack; nothing much was around there, but he did get some Reese's Minicups. The seats themselves were a bit cramped, we were on the left side, seats A and B, but it wasn't too bad.

The flight itself was fairly uneventful, and we got into Atlanta with just enough time to hop onto our connecting flight to JFK. However, the flight wasn't quite ready to leave; everyone had boarded, and we waited... and waited... finally an announcement was made that they were being delayed by some paperwork. We waited some more. Then another announcement was made, that some bulbs in the cockpit needed to be replaced, and we saw a maintenance man going in to the cockpit. We waited some more.

Finally, after about 45 minutes of waiting, we were cleared for takeoff, and off we went to JFK.

Our approach to JFK was very dark, even though it was only about 6:00pm, there was a heavy storm system sitting over the area, so we had to circle a bit. I had already just about given up on making our connecting flight, which was only leaving an hour after we were supposed to be there, but I maintained some hope that they weren't letting planes take off in the storm either. We flew in a holding pattern for about another hour, and finally got in (and waited on the runway) around 7:15 or so. When we disembarked, the Delta attendant said our flight may still be here, and rushed us out the doors, and out to the street, and onto a bus, and around the whole airport to Terminal 8, and finally to a looooooong line in the Connections area of American Airlines. One assistant was very short with me, said my flight was long gone (didn,t even ask which one it was) and that I had to wait in line. So we waited... again... and we waited... they kept calling passengers out whose flights were leaving soon, and since ours wasn't called, it must have already left.

About an hour in that line, and we finally made it to the counter, and a wonderful woman named Valentina helped us get our connecting tickets on American, with a stop in London. The flight left at 11:30pm, stopped in London for an hour, and we connected on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin, arriving at 2:30pm. This sounded wonderful, and I went down to search to see if my bag got off the plane and was waiting downstairs. I asked someone to help, and she went in to check, and said it was on its way to London, as that was the next flight out to Dublin (eventually). We went in search for something to eat, as we had had only snacks since breakfast that morning, and were quite starved.

The food court had several restaurants, including McDonalds, and Sbarros, but, while their lights were all on, they were closed. The only place that was open was a salad/yogurt place, and we got a couple chicken Caesar wraps that were quite forgettable if we hadn't been so hungry, they would have been trashed. However, partially sated and ready to go, we went to the terminal to await our flight to London.

We waited with the many Brits and Aussies that were waiting for the same flight. As our rows were called, and we made our way to the bulkhead seats (chosen for more legroom), we discovered that the bulkhead seat armrests could NOT be moved up out of the way. In fact, the armrests were solid (no butt room under them) because the collapsible food trays were inside them. Jason couldn't even fit into the seat, and even I was a tight squeeze.

We looked at business class, and saw one lonely person there, so Jason asked the stewardess to find out how much it would be to upgrade to business class. After several minutes, she came back and told us (somewhat abruptly) that the upgrade would be $3000 each person, each way!!! We both thought this a bit ridiculous, and Jason sat down (as well as he could). I thought he was done arguing (I was wrong) and went off to find another option. I went out to the front desk, and told them the situation, and asked for solutions. They told me that if my husband doesn't fit in a seat, he would need to purchase another ticket! I retorted that since the armrests don't come up, buying a second ticket wouldn't do him a bit of good, he still could not fit into the seats. And besides, were they discriminating against him by trying to charge him twice as much?

I was quite upset at this time and one of the stewardesses mentioned that in the back rows, the armrests did come up, and that I would have to ask one of the people in the back if they would switch. (evidently they couldn't ask themselves?) I went back to our seats, and told Jason the solution, and asked him to go back and ask, as I was very upset and needed to calm down. He went back and we arranged to switch with some people in row 44, window and aisle seats with removable armrests (yay!). After we started taking off, a couple in the middle rows offered to switch with us, as they had an extra seat between them, and that would give us three armrest-less seats to fly in relative comfort in.

The flight itself was much better after that. One of the stewardesses actually came over and apologized for the first stewardess's rudeness, and made sure we were comfortable. One of the inflight movies was Shrek, so we relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the flight. I got a couple hours of sleep, and even Jason slept (with the help of some Benedryl).

April 20th

We arrived in London around noon, and went to the Aer Lingus terminal for our flight over to Dublin. This may have been part of the original Heathrow terminal, it was very old and 50s futuristic looking, with round tubes and porthole windows. The plane itself was about 20 rows, very small. The armrests didn't come up, and Jason didn't fit in the seat, but as it was only a 45 minute flight (and there was no first class, much less business class) we dealt with it for the short duration.

Arriving in Dublin we went to get my bag, and couldn't find it. I put in a claim for lost luggage, and since it was 3:00pm, and the parents were due at 4:30pm, we decided to head for the food court and have a snack while awaiting their arrival. We found a McDonalds open, and proceeded to have our first Irish meal (so to speak). Afterwards, we went down to meet mom and dad, and collect their luggage, as well as look for mine. Their luggage was there, but mine was still a missing person, so we told the lost luggage department, and they said they would send it out to our place in Kilkenny when it was found. I hoped that it would be soon, as all my clothing was in there, as well as several books I wanted Anne McCaffrey to sign.

Well the parents had a much easier time of the trip over. (Dad here.) I had to teach that day (the 19th) and our flight didn't leave until 6 PM. But it was leaving from San Francisco airport and the shuttle was due to pick us up by 2:15 - what with the heightened security restrictions and this being an international flight. We were due to travel non-stop from San Francisco to London and catch a short flight from there to Dublin as my daughter ended up doing. The good news was I was teaching a relatively easy class with a small group of students, so I had no worry that we would finish around noontime on Friday. Sure enough, I was home in plenty of time for the scheduled pick-up. I did have a concern that all would go well for the kids on their flights, but I was prepared to arrive before them in Dublin.

The flight to London was long. We both tried to sleep some - between movies. Judy did better than I. Part way through, we stretched our legs and stood up for a while. We were talking in low voices when a passenger had the nerve to ask us to be quiet so they could sleep. These were the same passengers that had their lights on for most of the night, making it very difficult for me to rest well. The flight was something like 10 hours long, so we got to see a couple of movies - 'Ocean's Eleven', 'Joe Somebody', and 'Gosford Park'.

(Father): We arrived in London around noontime and trekked (literally) from the international terminal to the domestic terminal where we arrived to find that no gate had yet been assigned to our flight to Dublin. Apparently they do that at the last minute, to attain maximum flexibility (and confusion). So we sat around until they posted a departure gate for the flight and then located the waiting area for it. The flight over was pretty brief and we landed pretty much on schedule. We were pleased to see that the children had made it safely before us, in spite of their delays and re-routing, although we were not pleased by the errant luggage.

We picked up our rental car from Budget, and loaded our stuff in it, and drove on out of the airport. I drove as I had done so before in Ireland, and in Dublin itself, although we wanted to avoid having to do that if we could. I put dad in charge of navigation, and we drove out of the airport.

We took the M1 down to the M50, and followed that around to the N7; I think we missed the exit, and had to turn around and get back on the M50 to make the N7. That continued to Naas, and we made the mistake of getting off at Naas rather than just passing it, and staying on the highway.

We stopped in Carlow for some dinner, and the first couple of places we tried weren't open or didn't serve food. We rounded the corner in the main street, and found a place that had little neon signs with Coca-Cola on them, so we thought we'd try it out. What a mistake! It was a little fish-n-chips place with a blaring TV, greasy food and surly service. But it was food, and we were hungry. The TV had a British equivalent of the Dating Game on it, after a Star Search/Karaoke program. It was almost painful!

We continued to Kilkenny the long way, on the smaller roads (a mistake we wouldn't make again!), and finally made it to Knocktopher Abbey around 10:30, utterly exhausted and ready for bed.

The Abbey door had two notes on it, one for us and one for another guest, telling us which cabin was ours and that it was unlocked, with the keys inside. What trust!

We went to our cabin, which was one of a row of six attached to the main manor house of the converted Abbey. Ours was #12, the second one down, and it had two bathrooms and two bedrooms upstairs, and a living room/dining room and kitchen downstairs. The steps were very shallow and difficult to get up and down, especially as mom has bad knees. However, after a little settling in, all of us slept soundly and long into the morning.

Dad had planned on sleeping on the pull-out couch downstairs, but discovered that the mattress was inexplicably missing; so I believe he ended up sleeping on the floor with some of the couch cushions.

(Father): Actually, Judy was kind enough to volunteer to sleep on the couch itself and surrendered one of the upstairs bedroom to me.

April 21st

I think we were all finally up around 10am the next morning, refreshed, showered and dressed. We decided that today would be a relax and recover day, and went into the office to speak with Derrick. Derrick was flabbergasted that someone would steal the pull-out couch mattress, and offered to find another for us. In the meantime, though, he mentioned that he had an upstairs suite in the main house that wasn't being rented all week. Would we like to use that? Jason and I said sure, we could do that, and the matter was closed. We moved our stuff up to the third floor (second floor in Ireland) suite, which was a large efficiency-style room with two beds, a living area, a small kitchenette, and a bathroom. That way mom and dad each had their own room, and we had our own suite. Everyone was happy!

Especially me, as Derrick allowed us to use the extra room at absolutely no extra charge. What service!

Derrick told us that today was a big match in Kilkenny, evidently the National Hurling Championship, in which the Kilkenny team was playing. He said this was on the north end of town, and we should avoid the area if we wanted to avoid crowds. He mentioned that Carol's, a bar/hotel just in Knocktopher, served breakfast, and we decided that this would be a wonderful thing.

So we went into town (walking distance from our room) and had our first Full Irish Breakfast. This consists of fried eggs, ham (called bacon), very bland sausages, a grilled tomato half, black pudding and white pudding (boiled grain dishes, much tastier and spicier than the sausage), toast, tea and coffee. Not exactly the healthiest breakfast if you are watching your cholesterol, but definitely filling and satisfying.

We decided to go into the next town over (Thomastown) and look for a grocery store, so we wouldn't have to eat out if we didn't feel like it, and perhaps cook our own breakfast. Certainly snacks and drinks were required. Why have a suite with a kitchen if you're not going to use it? So into town we went, which was about 8 kilometers away. Knocktopher had a very small grocery, but it had no fresh food; my bedroom is bigger than that grocery store was! We got some shampoo (I had left mine at home) and some drinks, and went on to the bigger town.

Thomastown wasn't exactly large, although it did have several pubs, and a regular grocery store tucked in behind a church. It also had the smallest, twisting, hilly streets I've seen within a town, especially on the main street.

We found the grocery in Thomastown by accident, parked in the 10-car parking lot, and went on in; such strange things for sale! First of all, we were assaulted by a Louie-the-Lizard balloon for Budweiser -- not exactly what you would think coming into an Irish Grocery. We found a fresh made pizza on sale: with corn and tomatoes on it, but no tomato sauce. We found some chicken, some rice dishes, some soda, some bread and lunchmeat, chocolate and miscellaneous items and went to check out. We found out that you needed to buy your own bags at the dispenser in the back of the store, too.

Back at the cabin we put our groceries away and relaxed a bit, had some sandwiches for lunch, and relaxed watching television. We still weren't quite recovered from the trip over and the jet lag, so we discovered what Irish television was like. Mostly old movies and SKY news; we did get into an episode of Agatha Christie mysteries, mom recognized the story and Miss Marple. It had a very young version of the actor that plays Lionel in the current Britcom As Time Goes By.

As dinner time rolled around, we decided to head up to Kilkenny, hoping that the sports crowds had died out a bit by then. We went by a couple places on the main strip for some dinner, and finally found a place called Li's, a Chinese restaurant. It was an excellent choice; the food was delicious and fresh; although the coke size left much to be desired. I ordered a king prawn dish that was very spicy, I think Jason had General Tso's chicken. It was very filling and it renewed our faith in Irish restaurants, if not in Irish cuisine.

As we left the restaurant, we stopped into a little bookstore down the street, and browsed a bit. I saw lots of Robert Jordan books in the scifi area, but no Anne McCaffrey or Morgan Llewllyn, oddly enough. Mom found a book on Irish insults that she bought, and I considered buying one on Irish words in the English language, but decided against it. I was severely tempted by several lovely Irish picture books, but restrained my spending. Jason also considered buying a book on local flora and fauna, but didn't end up doing so.

We headed back to the car and back to the resort. We hauled all of our stuff up to our new suite, after deciding what we should do the next day. Just as we were about to leave, a truck from Aer Lingus showed up with my luggage (praise to the gods!), and the whole outlook was that much brighter.

We had discovered during the drive today that dad drove rather fast and recklessly, at least to our cautious opinions. We asked him to slow down, but evidently he felt as if he either needed to scare me almost to the point of tears or that he needed to keep going fast if someone was behind him. There are several points along any road in Ireland that are designed for pulling over and letting people by, and he used those occasionally, but in the meantime, he kept going about 50 or 60mph on little windy roads he was not familiar with. Several times he nearly hit the sideview mirror on the hedge or the stone wall on my side of the car. I took a dim view of this practice, and Mom, Jason and I decided I would drive the next day.

We decided that we would try to do Glendalough and Powerscourt Falls and Gardens tomorrow, and try to give Anne a call.