DEPARTURE DAY & DAY 1 IN IRELAND

Dublin / Rock of Cashel / Cork for a Surprise

DEPARTURE DAY

Our journey from O'Hare to Dublin began with the typical overnight flight. And it began exactly opposite as we would hope - with a five and a half hour delay - with a 2-year old. Proud to say Cameron was more patient than many of the impatient passengers. So we sat is our seats for a few hours, then off the plane with food vouchers, back on the plane, and finally, our scheduled 6:30 pm takeoff lifted off at 11:59pm. Well at least American Airlines serves complimentary beer and wine on their transatlantic flights to Europe.

DAY 1 - ARRIVE IN DUBLIN; ROCK OF CASHEL & CORK FOR A SURPRISE

Arrival in Dublin. We arrived in the afternoon thanks to the delay, as opposed to a morning arrival. Oh well, we are here. After collecting our rental car we had little room for our luggage. Welcome to EuroTrip. Tip: Don't bring clothes - there's no room in the small cars.

Off to Justin's first scheduled attraction, the Rock of Cashel, about 2 hours away in south central Ireland. Remember, driving in Ireland is on the left side. Justin insisted on driving to get the full experience and relay it to his clients. So we raced to the Rock in an effort to get there before closing time.

Success. We arrive and parked a couple blocks away under partly cloudy skies. We missed the last tour of the day, but no worries - we are quite content to tour the amazing grounds and impressive interior at our pace exploring and photographing points of interest to us.

Words fail us to explain this incredible castle. Please refer to our photos. Work first began on it around 1235, with additional towers added in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The grounds simply took our breath away with ancient headstones, Irish crosses and grave markers in various size and shapes spread throughout the grounds in no particular order. While walking the grounds you absorb stunning views in all directions. The Rock of Cashel sits above  the town of Cashel, which is very visible from this impressive perch. In other directions you can see for miles, overlooking lush farmlands to the south and a mountain range in the western distance. Our first taste of Ireland is impressive.

The Rock of Cashel is undertaking a massive restoration project, and we wish them well so future generations of visitors will have the same impressive experience we did. There are artifacts from the past on display as well as photos of Queen Elizabeth II 2011 visit. Our only regret is that we did not have enough time to explore the enticing town of Cashel.

Now  we are off to Cork for our hotel. As we near Cork we decide it's best to have a suitable dinner as it has been a very long couple of days - and we are starving. Plus we readily acknowledge  once we arrive at the hotel we may crash and unlikely to go back out. So we pull into a quaint village and scope out what looks like the best bet for dinner. We must be right because it's packed. However, we are informed the kitchen has closed for the night. We are sent on our way with a recommendation for a place in the next village a few miles away, that  we are told stays open later.

So a few miles later we reach Killeagh and the recommended The Old Thatch,as it turns out, one of the oldest licensed premises in Ireland. Completely different scene - a couple guys at the bar and only one couple in the dining area. We are informed the kitchen is closed but if we can live with sandwiches we are welcome. Starved, we readily agree. So cheers to our first Guinness of the trip, and the food hit the spot. In the end our first dinner in Ireland is in a small diner/bar and is quite authentic, heavy Irish accents and all. The staff are amazed we flew in from Chicago yesterday and are still going.

We leave The Old Thatch satisfied but the best is yet to come. As we drive back into Cork to our supposed hotel for the night, Justin wants to drive by an old ruin of a castle. As we enter the grounds leading to the castle we drive past an open pasture with stunning mares. At first we didn't even notice the impressive resort opposite the pasture. No sooner did we joking suggest that this looked like a nice place to stay when Justin informed us that was indeed where we would stay tonight. Surprise. We had expected much more meager accommodations according to the itinerary he gave us.

So here we are at Castlemartyr Resort east of Cork. After a quick check-in, a professionally attired, cheerful, seasoned bell captain unloaded our overflowing vehicle and transported our excessive luggage to both of our rooms. He was cheery and full of information and suggestions. Professionalism personified!

The resort is stately, beautiful. And we didn't even explore the grounds  - yet. Cameron gave his full attention and approval to the kids play room we passed en route to our rooms. And speaking of the rooms  - they are generous in space at over 500 square feet and luxuriously designed. Our floor-to-ceiling exterior door opened to a French balcony and iron railing which overlooked the golf course, a tranquil setting. The bathrooms are equally roomy and luxurious with rainforest showerheads, a separate tub, and twin marble vanities. So much more luxury than we expected.

Please explore our photos as our words fail to do justice to this resort. Just know that Kanye West bought out the resort for his wedding. The list of notable guests is long and includes the likes of "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen.

To wind down and soak in this impressive ambiance Justin and Jay adjourned to the stately Knights Bar and admired this new, but old world reminiscent proper bar. The artwork and ceiling design suggest this is a classic estate. It has been a long but wonderful first day in Ireland: Dublin to Rock of Cashel to our dinner in quaint Killeagh, to the stately Castlemartyr Resort. Cheers.

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