Dingle Trifecta, Part 2

Dingle Trifecta, Part 3

Dingle and Ballydavid

March 7 – 15, 2003 (Page updated June 3, 2003)

1: Trip begins despite war clouds

5: Slea Head Drive

2: Memphis to Detroit-Boston-Shannon

6: Golf at Cheann Sibéal

3: Dingle and Ballydavid

7: Dingle's ancient ruins

4: More Dingle and Ballydavid

8: Bunratty and home

Photo Album

 

                  

By Lewis Nolan

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Sunday, March 9, 2003 – Shannon to Dingle

 

We pulled out of Shannon at 9 a.m., passing by a Garda checkpoint on the main road to the airport. Burly members of Ireland’s national police force were evidently checking inbound traffic for suspected terrorists or potential hijackers as part of the Western European response to the impending invasion of Iraq by the United States, Britain and a few allies.

 

I can’t imagine any Middle Eastern terrorism group aiming their gun sights at the neutral Irish, whose own IRA outlaws have formed unholy alliances with Muslim extremists in past years. Militant Arabs and militant IRA soldiers have at least two things in common; both hate the Brits and both are willing to murder innocent people to achieve their political goals. My speculation is that U.S.-bound or England-bound flights from Shannon screened by the laid-back Irish might be easier to breach than similar flights originating at other European airports.

 

It took a little over three hours to drive to Dingle to the
Betty on Dingle Skellig's shoreline
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Southwest, in a light rain and in very light traffic. The Irish are late sleepers and this being Sunday, not many people were out and about as we drove through Bunratty, Limerick, Abbeyfeale, Tralee and Annascaul.

 

The main highways (N-18 south to Limerick and  then N-21 to Tralee) were mostly divided, four-lanes roadways with generally smooth surfaces. However, the secondary N-86 road Tralee to Annascaul was beyond awful. Deep potholes in the asphalt and irregular patches on top of patches made for slow and rough going. Each of the two lanes were quite narrow, even for our tiny car. It made me doubly glad we were traveling on a Sunday because we encountered few trucks and none of the hulking tour buses that make driving in rural Ireland such an adventure.

 

It is obvious that the road builders did not make the roadway subsurface strong enough to support the heavy trucks needed to service the growing infrastructure of the Dingle Peninsula. Driving on the opposite side of the road isn’t nearly as tough as a lot of Americans think it may be. But I confess to probably being susceptible to instinctively veering in the wrong direction in the event of an emergency. The nice young ladies at the Avis counter had told me that Irish law required car rental companies to include liability coverage for all rentals. Our Brian Moore Tours package provided for damage to the rental car beyond $1,000; we also had car damage covered by my American Express card charge. I’ve no supporting data, but strongly suspect that cars don’t last as long in Ireland as they do in the U.S. because of the awful road conditions. On the other side of the argument is the fact that it is much harder to get a driver’s license in Ireland than it is in the U.S., and cars cost a lot more because of import taxes. No cars are manufactured in Ireland, which has a population of about 4 million, less than that of Tennessee’s 5.6 million.

 

We stopped at a familiar, clean, modern gas station/grocery store near Tralee to purchase some snacks and supplies. We arrived at our hotel, the Dingle Skellig, about noon. We were thankful that rooms were available for immediate check-in and decided to upgrade to a deluxe room with a
Betty by fishing boats in Dingle Harbor
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magnificent view of Dingle Harbor and its mouth. We had a quick lunch (cold salmon for me and ham sandwich for Betty) and napped for several hours. Betty luxuriated in the huge, new bathtub in the marble-lined bathroom. I showered in a ritzy, glass enclosed stall. We later learned that we were the first occupants of the newly renovated room. It was definitely worth the price of the upgrade.

 

Later, we poked around the grounds of the hotel, which is located on the shoreline and overlooks Dingle harbor and the beautiful countryside that surrounds it. We enjoyed a light supper with wine at the sparsely occupied hotel. I went for cold crab and Betty for chicken tenders. I savored a piece of Irish soda bread and a few of Betty’s French fries, the first potatoes I’ve had in seven months of Atkins’ low carb dieting.

 

After dinner, we sat in the hotel’s plush and very comfortable Gallarus Room and complimentary drinks. The drinks were courtesy of the hotel’s embarrassed manager, who had to call in a locksmith to repair the electronic lock of our room’s brand new door. We met Blake and Peggy Starkey of Palestine, Texas. He is retired from the Army. She is an educator who was leading a small tour group of people interested in Celtic history.

 

Monday, March 10, 2003 – Dingle

 

We were awakened in the middle of the night by hard rain pounding on our room’s windows. It was so loud that it sounded like hail with rolling thunder. At daylight, we could see that the predicted gale force winds of 50-to-60 mph had kicked up white caps in the sheltered harbor. From the warmth and safety of the Dingle Skellig’s conservatory, we had a great view of mighty waves breaking on a rocky promontory at the harbor’s distance mouth.

 

The full Irish breakfast buffet at the Skellig offers a cornucopia of attractively served breakfast foods, including the tasty Irish bacon. With my low carbohydrate food regime, five or six pieces of bacon became a staple of my morning meal; two or three “leftovers” fueled my mid-morning
Lewis by Dingle turf accountant office
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snack. I departed from the Atkins program and allowed myself a slice or two of forbidden, white-flour toast with the bacon since there was no soymeal bread available.  I also indulged a bit with a glass or two per day of the carb-rich Guinness beer and a few potatoes. After all, I rationalized, “when in Ireland. . .” But overall, by eating fish and no desserts I managed to stay pretty close to the diet of the last seven months. Happily, I returned home weighing exactly what I weighed the day we left.

 

With all the rain and gale force winds, golf is out for today. I rode a stationary bike for 30 minutes in the hotel’s “leisure center,” which would be called a fitness center back home. My exercise routine included a little work with weights and some stretching. I had remembered the hotel’s indoor pool and had brought a swimsuit and goggles from home. But my interest in swimming some mid-morning laps faded when a P.E. class from a nearby elementary school arrived for their weekly swimming lesson. A friendly staffer told me that the hotel makes the pool available for schoolchildren during the off hours and even then reserves a lane for hotel guest use. She added that since the youngsters live so close to the ocean, it is important that they learn to swim. The hotel has the only indoor pool on the Dingle Peninsula.

 

The rain lifted for a while and the sun briefly showed its face about 12:30 p.m., so we drove into town. Betty changed some dollar-denominated Travelers Checks into Euros at the Dingle branch of the Bank of Ireland. We walked a few yards to the Dingle Benners Hotel, where one of my golf companions from last year had worked as general manager. He learned that Gareth Anthony had departed for another job in England. I’m not sure the native of South African with dual British citizenship had ever fully warmed to the laid back lifestyle of rural Ireland. He had expressed incomprehension at why so many Irish preferred the chummy company of beery and smoky pubs over being outdoors and playing golf, rugby or other sports he loves. He’s a nice guy and I’m sorry he wasn’t available for golf or a glass.

 

We also learned that the hotel is not currently serving dinner in its elegant restaurant because of the off season.

 

A few steps away from Dingle Benners is Dingle Crystal, where Betty had bought six, exquisite, hand-cut tumblers last year. I rarely go
Betty (left), Dingle Crystal's Liz Daly
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a day without having a martini or two on the rocks in the heavy, leaded crystal. Artisan Sean Daly – who learned his cutting craft at Waterford Crystal – has created several design patterns not available elsewhere. Our favorite is Celtic Flame, which features sweeping lines that dance in the light. Sean buys his blanks from Waterford, where he and his wife, Liz, have one of their two homes.

 

Betty decided to buy a half-dozen champagne flutes in the Celtic Flame pattern. She dealt with Liz, who was minding the store while Sean was in Waterford. Several flutes in our pattern were in stock and she promised that Sean would cut the remainder within two weeks and promptly ship them to Memphis. He did and they were delivered on time, at a cost of 65 Euros each, shipping included.

 

We were interested to learn that Sean had been in Santa Barbara, Calif., last April for a “twinning” ceremony that formally links Dingle with Santa Barbara, which calls itself the “American Riviera. He has created a new design – aptly called “Santa Barbara” - for the dual promotional and visitation program advanced by both local governments and business communities. It incorporates a deeply engraved palm tree. It is such a small world, we find again and again. Liz and Betty talked about our visits to Santa Barbara to see our son, most recently last June.

 

While Betty and Liz worked out the details of the purchase and shipping/customs arrangements, Liz kindly allowed me to use their company computer and Internet connection to check my e-mail (and delete the increasingly annoying pile of spam that clutters up my electronic mail box). She was delighted to see that I had posted on one of my websites (lewis_nolan/1IRE02.HTML) a photo of Sean and Betty taken in the shop last year. Their website is at www.dinglecrystal.ie.

 

We briefly stopped at what seems to be the largest food store in town, Garvey’s Super Value, and purchased some Diet Cokes, Cork Dry Gin and a small bottle of Chardonnay from South Africa. It’s remarkable how similar the foods and packaging here are to those we find back home even though the brand names and countries of origin are often different. Mr. Garvey must be quite an entrepreneur. He also owns a sports equipment and clothing store a few doors away (where I bought a wool cap made in Donegal to replace one that was lost on our trip to Boston in November), the Dingle Skellig Hotel, the Dingle Benners Hotel and several other businesses.

 

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