Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ireland Day Seven -- Bunratty

Today, we kind of took it easy. Awaking in Doolin, we had intended to take the Ferry out to the Arran Islands. Our B&B is a short walk away from the Doolin Pier, but the weather forecast for the afternoon was not good, and we didn't want to fight seasickness, or worse, get stuck out there on the islands for the night. (That is a distinct possibility when the weather blows in.)

For those wishing to take this adventure sometime in the future, the ferry leaves Doolin Pier at 10, 11, 12 and 1 o'clock, returning at 2:15 and 4 o'clock. The cost is €50 for two people, and operation of the ferry depends on the weather. The best way to see the islands are on bike. You can hire bikes from Doolin town, near the Internet Cafe and Laundry.

So, instead of going to Arran, we drove east into the country to visit Bunratty. Bunratty is near Shannon airport. It is the Irish equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg. The park is home to Bunratty Castle, where they host medieval suppers and large festival banquets in full costume.

Surrounding the castle are educational exhibits of life in Ireland in days past. There are rich aristocratic homes like Bunratty Manor House, small farm homes, and simple servant homes. Real peat fires burn in all the homes, and costumed actors walk through the town telling stories and acting their parts.

Unfortunately, Bunratty is also home to many "olde tourist gift shoppes", and the boys had a vicious case of the "gimmes." After seven straight days of touring, we were ALL at the end of our ropes. Eddie and Luke both were upset that I wouldn't let them buy stuffed donkeys, so we had a bit of a meltdown after the gift shop. We decided to call it a day and go back to the B&B early. It has been a solid week of touring, and I think everybody was just plain tired.

But before we went to bed, we headed out to the Stone Cutter's Kitchen in Luogh North, Doolin.

Run by expatriate Americans, Karen Courtney and Myles Duffy, the restaurant features a full selection of Irish beef, pork, chicken, and seafood dishes. They also had an excellent children's menu, plus a variety of tasty looking specials.

For my appetizer, I had the seafood chowder, which had a wonderful array of squid, fish, crab, mussels, cockles, and, as the menu said, "and so on, and so on, and so on." It was as if they scooped a bucket of sea-life from Doolin pier, added cream and spices, and served it warm. Delicious!

For the main course, I had the very excellent pork medallions with a whole-grain mustard sauce and new potatoes. Becky had a Guinness and Irish beef stew which would warm the coldest farmer after a drizzly day in the fields. Eddie had fish and chips, and Luke, a cheeseburger.

Dessert was pretty special too: homemade plum crumble with warm custard, a strawberry ice cream wafer sandwich, and a hot glass of vanilla custard. We ate well, and tonight, we will sleep very well.

Tomorrow, we will likely take the Killimer ferry down to Killarney, cutting 130 km off of our driving and saving a bit on petrol as well. (Petrol costs about $8 per gallon, and the ferry crossing is only €14. Believe me, it works out.)

Plus we'll still get that boat ride.

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