***image1***Ireland is the one place I’ve wanted to visit my entire life. So with a plane ticket to Killarney costing me less than a tank of gas, I was out of excuses not to go with my friend.
Killarney consists only of about three main streets. However, because it is a tourist town, there are numerous places to stay, everything from posh hotels to B&Bs to camp grounds. Being the cheap yet social adventurers that we are, we chose to stay in a hostel called Paddy’s Palace, which was chosen solely on its name.
We decided to get our first taste of Ireland, well, by getting a taste of Ireland.
We ate at the Danny Man pub, where a growing number of locals including our waiter were absorbed in the soccer match. The next night when we returned to eat dinner there, the soccer match was replaced with “Lord of the Dance.” Not so many locals watching that. The food we had there and at every other place we ate in Killarney was just like my mom’s home cookin’. Nothing too fancy, just meat and potatoes. But, we went away from each place with full tummies and a strong urge to nap.
It became apparent that the downside to going to a tourist destination outside of tourist season is that not all of the attractions are open. We had hoped to take a tour of the Dingle Peninsula and visit the inside of Ross Castle, but were informed that those tours, and most others, were not operating until later in the year.
***image2***So, we decided to start exploring the huge national park on the outskirts of town by visiting the Muckross House, a 19th century manor house on the edge of one of the park’s lakes. The house is interesting and surprisingly comfortable compared to the hundreds of other museum houses I’ve been in, probably due to the fact that they didn’t have any velvet ropes or Plexiglas separating visitors from anything in the rooms. Admission to the house for adults is about €6 and there’s an additional fee to visit the traditional farm there that opens March 19.
While on the Muckross House grounds, we went for a ride in a jaunting car, which is basically a horse and buggy, along the lake to Torc Waterfall. The ride usually runs about €38 for two people, but since we were the only tourists around and did some accidental haggling, we got it for €26. Although the ride began pleasantly and the view of the lake with mountains looming in the background was spectacular, Ireland’s always threatening gray skies finally made good on their threat, and it poured.
After changing our soggy clothes, we figured the best way to warm ourselves again was to grab a pint of Guinness (or what a friend calls a beer milkshake) at a real, live Irish pub. The town is full of pubs and clubs, each one offering its own take on Irish night life, and most of them filled until closing. We visited the Killarney Grand, where a great traditional band played up front and techno music blared from the back. The next night we visited McSorley’s, where two guys in kilts played their own punk-celt versions of everything from traditional songs to U2 to Green Day.
The next day, we went back to Killarney National Park on a two-hour walking tour, taking us by the ruins of Muckross Abbey and into the moss-covered forest. The hike was easy, and the views of the lake and mountains and within the emerald woods were unbelievable. I am in no means a camper, but being in the midst of all that natural beauty (and being comforted by the fact that Ireland doesn’t have any snakes) almost inspired me to stake a tent.
I saw only a little bit of Ireland in my two-day introduction, but I saw enough to know that I wanted to go back. The country has it all: interesting history, fun people, great entertainment, wild and beautiful landscapes, small towns, big cities, and sheep. And did I mention no snakes?