Saturday, June 27, 2009

Parents First Visit & their first time to England & Ireland!

My parents came over to visit for the first time! 12 days in London including a few days in Ireland. It was a non-stop week of touristy excursions, I felt a bit like I was on holiday too.

  They saw London on their own during the days then I’d meet up with them after work. On Sunday when they arrived we took a day trip to Portsmouth- on the south coast of England.

     They had no time for jet lag- we jumped straight on the train.  

Portsmouth was really nice; we saw all the touristy Historic Docklands, took a harbor cruise then ate dinner by the marina and shops. 

Later in the week we went to Richmond to walk along the river and have dinner, then on Wednesday I took a half-day to go to Hampton Court Palace.

   I fell in love with Hampton Court- the Palace was gorgeous and so well kept. They had actors playing the King, Queen and other people in the house. They also had free audio guides and there was just loads to see!



On Saturday morning we flew to Cork, Ireland and after sorting out the rental car were on our way to Bantry. When Dad saw the rental was not only right side driver – for Ireland’s left side driving- but also a stick he flipped!  Dad- almost all cars over here are manual!  The first few minutes, or day, of his driving on the other side was interesting to say the least.  Thankfully we were fully insured and those extra few scratches he added were fine.  

We arrived safely in Bantry (on the South West coast), after figuring out the Irish driving system, round-abouts and road signs.  We went straight to dinner by Bantry Bay then made our way to our B&B at the top of the hill. It was a gorgeous day and we had no time to waste so after a quick check in we set off to explore Sheep’s Head.  The tourist office was really helpful and told me we manage Sheep’s head in a few hours then hit up Mizen Head tomorrow on our way to Kinsale.  I had no idea we’d see as much of Ireland as we did in less than 3 days. 
Sunday morning after our yummy breakfast we drove to the tip of Mizen Head- the Southern most point of Southwest Ireland.  It was suppose to be beautiful with a light house and sea views but the weather wasn’t cooperating with us, the closer we got to the tip the foggier it was.  Of course when we left and started heading east again it was suddenly sunnier and sunnier.  Oh well- either way we were there, even if we literally didn’t see anything!  There was an old anchor that had been salvaged and labeled with a plaque describing how the ship sunk off the coast of Mizen Head because it was so foggy it ran into the cliffs…not surprised.  Our end destination was Kinsale but we stopped along the way at anything that looked worth a quick look.  Skull, and their farmers market, where I found a nice sized zucchini baby which brought me back to my childhood days, we stopped at a small marina, a beautiful old church set up on a hill and lots of other cute little places. 

When we finally arrived in Kinsale I was taken back, all of the coastal towns are quaint little places, but Kinsale is the place to be! Turned out we accidentally booked our B&B in Garrettstown outside Kinsale, but to our delight it was on the ocean with unbelievable views!  After settling in we walked on the beach then I got to try my hand at driving. I must admit, I who dislikes all things car related really enjoyed it! It was fun driving the little Colt we hired and zipping along the costal roads!  We drove up to Old Head Kinsale and hiked to the top to see the views and watch the dolphins swim by.  If we had more time I could have spent hours there just sitting on the cliffs. There was a lighthouse on the tip with the golf course, but we couldn’t go in because it was private.  For dinner we heading into Kinsale and after a quick wander we realized thing shut down early on a Sunday night around here so we better make a move. I had delicious fish and we were able to stare at the sailboat marina from the restaurant!  Ah, I forgot, it was also Father’s day, so when we got back to the B&B we went to the bar for a drink with Dad. Even Mom tried the Murphy’s Irish Cider.  

Monday- Last day! After breakfast overlooking the ocean we headed into see more of Kinsale.  It’s a lively little town with loads of tourist in the streets.  We started in the Desmond Castle, which didn’t take long because there wasn’t much to see, except the wine history then shopped around for a few gifts in town before heading to the Charles Fort.  The fort was really interesting and we arrived just in time for a guided tour! After learning all about the start shaped fort and its history we jumped back in the car to find the Blarney Castle!  A bit turned around in Cork we finally got to Blarney and headed straight to the castle.  Turns out there is loads to see, you really need ½ a day but we only had a couple hours so we toured the castle, kissed the Blarney Stone and saw what we could of the grounds before we left for the airport.  Sadly we missed the rock area, lake walk, forest hike, and Blarney House (which was closed for renovations anyway).  I guess I’ll have to stop there again someday! All in all Ireland was beautiful with countless places in adorable towns to see, and just a quick flight from London.