Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ireland Day Four -- Glenveagh National Park

There's nothing like starting the day with the "Full Irish Breakfast." I just love it! The FIB has become my personal favorite part of the trip: bacon, sausage, fried eggs, white or black pudding (or both, if you're lucky), potato bread, toast, beans, grilled tomatoes, jam, butter, and fresh coffee, tea and orange juice. Add to that cereals, fruit, yogurt, cheeses and breads, and you've got yourself a feast--every morning! Yum! Yum!

The boys have also been eating very well on this trip too, especially at breakfast. This is good, as they're still too skinny. And I prefer they fuel up at the breakfast, as it's already paid for with our lodging. With the Euro at $1.50+, it's good to keep expenses down as much as possible.

After the wonderful breakfast at the Bayside B&B, the boys and I wandered outside. The Bayside B&B is located on the very quiet Mullinasole Street, bracketed on each side by farms. To our south, lies a field of donkeys, some of them just foals. (Do you call a donkey-cub a foal?)

I had pocketed two apples from the buffet, so we went up to feed the beasts.

The donkeys were totally tame, of course. They probably get fed pretty well every day by the tourists at the Bayside B&B. They came running to greet us at the fence, and the boys pet them for quite a while. The donkeys eagerly accepted our apples, and this sent Luke looking for more forage for them. He offered grass, leaves from trees, and flowers, but when I saw him trying to feed a donkey hemlock, I drew the line.

I shouted, "That's poison, Luke!" and he instantly threw down the weed.

The donkey probably knew well enough to leave hemlock alone, but Luke did not. So, after washing Luke's hands with soap and water, we decided to leave the donkeys and meet up with Sharon and Desi for our trip to Glenveagh National Park.

Glenveagh is located in central Donegal County. The park features an icy lake squeezed between two narrow mountains running north to south. Glenveagh Castle and visitors center provide some interest, but the real excitement comes from the beautifully maintained gardens and the many hikes along the eleven acre castle grounds.

The scenery in this part of Ireland is as much like the Highlands of Scotland as I've seen anywhere else in Ireland: barren rocky mountains strewn with heather, cotton grass, small orchids, and lots and lots of foxglove.

The kids, Desi and I took the bus from the visitors center to the castle, but Sharon and Becky were eager to enjoy the 4 km walk (and to have some moments of silence away from the kids).

As we rode in the bus, the bus driver had some really annoying talk radio program on the speakers--really, really LOUD. We were listening to a call-in show on the trials of the Irish driver's learner's permit system at top volume, when a man in the front seat shouted to the driver, "Do you think you could turn that DOWN?"

The driver made a face, not unlike the face of one of your children when they've been squelched, but acquiesced and turned down the radio to a nicer volume.

At this point, Ronan shouted, "Turn it down some more!"

"RONAN!" I barked!

"It wasn't me," he meekly responded.

"Yeah, right."

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the man at the front of the bus who had shouted out the first request was Neil Patrick Harris. Good ol, Doogie Howser was touring Ireland with us. (Left is the photo I snapped of him at the castle. He's pretty good at posing and stuff.)

I am pretty terrible with celebrities, and I never would have recognized him for the celebrity that he is, but once he was pointed out to me, I could recognize him. He looked just like Doogie, only... well... manlier.

Our paths criss-crossed all day at Glenveagh, and Becky and Sharon spent most of their time saying, "Did you see him?" "He went over there." And, "He held the door for me." And, "I think that's his partner."

Yes, we had decided to spend the day in northern Ireland with Doogie and his beau, David Burtka. Even when we came back to Donegal town we couldn't shake them. We went to Magee's clothing store to buy me a belt (those delicious FIBs had broken my previous one), and there was Mr. Harris in the store, trying on tweed jackets. Mr. Burtka recognized us from Glenveagh, and Becky struck up a polite, if brief, conversation.

After Magee's, we said good-bye to Mr. Harris and Mr. Burtka, for I was desperate to find an Internet cafe to send off last night's blog entries. So I split up from everyone else, and took the boys with me to spend 45 minutes getting caught up with the world online.

With that task behind me, we got dinner for the kids at the Blueberry Tearoom, before taking dinner for the grown-ups at the Ard na Breatha, the hotel and restaurant that Desi and Sharon were staying in.

Dinner was excellent, as usual. We supped on sea bass, free-range chicken, roasted duck (I just can't resist it!), and Aberdeen Angus beef. (In Aberdeen, the beef really is owned by Angus!) We had a respectable bottle of Australian Shiraz, and rhubarb crumble and crème brûlée for dessert.

Another day down. Tomorrow, we strike out for Galway.

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