Friday, February 28, 2003 - Up early this morning to take a 3-day tour of the south of Ireland on the Paddywagon. Our driver Stephen kept things pretty lively as we rounded up the passengers and made our way out of Dublin. I volunteered for the copilot seat, which gave me a great view of everything we passed. Our first stop was the Rock of Cashel, where St. Patrick baptized King Aenghus in 450. As if commemorating that event, the skies let forth a heavy downpour, the only strong rain I saw in Ireland. The ruins of the chapel and cathedral date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, and include a well-preserved round tower, a common feature in early Christian architecture. The doors were high above ground and accessed by ladders which could be drawn up in case of attack. There was no defense against the rain, so I made my way back to the visitor's center.

Next we made the obligatory stop at the Blarney Stone. I wasn't to interested in what seemed to be a tourist trap, but I was happy to find the Blarney Castle and surrounding area very lovely. The current structure was completed in 1446, and the famed stoned is from Jericho, a relic from the crusades. Climbing the narrow stone stairs of the castle, I popped into various chambers, looking out the same windows where soldiers would have shot arrows at invaders. I kissed the stone, though so far it hasn't granted me seven years of eloquence. The guide who leans visitors backwards to the stone was a character, a little grumpy and with a thick accent, but interested in where I was from. There were fewer than 30 people around the castle that day, but in the summer, he said, the line extended down the stairway and well out the castle.

We had a lot of ground to cover to get to Killarney, winding throgh the Kerry Mountains. Stephen kept us entertained with his stories and a variety of Irish music: traditional songs, U2, rebel songs, the Cranberries. He even treated us to his rendition of "The Lakes of Pontchatrain" about an Irishman in Louisiana, not far at all from where I'm living now.

Once in Killarney, we had dinner at the Granary and then made our way to the Grand for drinks. Early in the evening, a trio played traditional music, including a piper playing the Irish pipes. Later a live band played onstage, and there was also a small dance club in the back. Another Paddywagon tour full of Australians was also in Killarney that night, so the craic was great. Another late night with a few too many Guinness... next>>

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