Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ireland Trip Blog Series: #2 - Tour Guides

Have you ever been on a tour? I had only taken brief ones, such as an hour of shuffling around in a museum. Knowing myself to be easily bored, I wondered whether ten days of being guided would get old.

Answer: a resounding No.

On the left is our guide at Glendalough, a Celtic monastery founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. This is a rotten picture of her, but I was trying to be artsy in capturing the 91-foot-high round tower behind her. We visited this site in County Wicklow on our first day in Ireland.

Days later, our tour bus driver would refer to our time at Glendalough as the day most of us were semi-comatose due to jet lag. But this young woman's passion for the history she was sharing is still fresh in my mind. (Not the history itself--which has escaped my memory--but her obvious love for her work.)

One of the options we had was to take a jaunting car ride through a bit of Killarney National Park. I think the price was 13 euro. Most, if not all the people on our bus decided to do this, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. Our driver spoke with a thick brogue, plus his voice was soft, so we had to listen carefully. His horse, Ben, was a cross between Irish Draft Horse and Clydesdale. They were a great team. Oh! And we were each given a plaid wool rug to put over our legs for the ride.

There were certain spots we'd pull off to the side so we could take photos, and because he knew he'd have a few minutes, the horse behind us would edge over and have a snack on the lush greenery at the side of the track. I think Ben knew he'd be well compensated for his good behavior while the tourists were off exploring the ruins of Ross Castle.


Here we are at Donegal Castle. This guide, besides having red hair instead of the more typical Irish coloring of brown hair/brown eyes, had cool eyeglasses. I had several minutes of eyeglass envy over her sparkly specs. She is a petite gal, maybe shorter than I, and somehow my two photos caught her in fireplaces both times. They are really big fireplaces, though!

She had a super quick wit, and drew us all into the story of Donegal Castle, from the O'Donnells to Basil Brooke, who acquired it after the O'Donnells were driven out in the 1600s. I made a note of the fact that the second fireplace is sandstone, built in 1625. So, yeah, it's the new fireplace.

She also told about the gift of the Choctaw Nation to the people of Ireland during the potato famine. There was a beautiful painting on the second floor (same level as new fireplace) memorializing the special relationship of the Choctaw with the Irish.



Our tour guides made the trip amazing. A shining--literally and figuratively--example was our visit to Muckross House, a mansion built in 1843. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, which sadly also resulted in me not getting a picture of our guide. She was terrific--energetic, funny, and a fast talker, so she shared a lot of information and some great stories within the time constraints of our tour. If only everyone could love their jobs and working environments so much!

Toward the end of the Muckross House tour when we were in rooms on the west side of the house, she began to talk about the golden light. It sounded almost magical when she went on and on about it. I thought, Sheesh, that's a bit overdone, but after the tour when we went outdoors and I saw the golden light for myself, I changed my opinion. Of course this photo doesn't do it justice. Golden light. Wow. Loved this tour in County Kerry, and would have enjoyed more time to stroll around.

Back to the bus. Since ours was a ten-day tour, our driver had to take a couple of days off driving and just talk. I think it was a safety measure by law or by the company, not expecting someone to drive ten days straight. They were long days at that, and having to take care of the bus before and after...really, we were a lot of work, now I think of it.

I wish I had a photo of the official bus Whisk Broom and Dust Pan that the driver used at the end of each day. Our chariot was always spotless.

Anyhoo, on the right in this photo is our main driver. The fellow in the red sweater was our relief driver for the gorgeous Ring of Kerry. Some of those roads didn't look wide enough for two cars to meet, let alone our giant bus and anything bigger than a sheep. The bus drivers said you could tell a tourist from a local by the speed at which they met our bus on the road. Locals just zipped by, while tourists crept to the edge of the road and hoped we'd make it past them.

We had a couple of other drivers for brief periods. The fellow who drove us "home" to the hotel from downtown Dublin on our last full day was an extra in the movie Braveheart. He described himself as the third bare posterior from the left in a scene you may recall if you've watched the movie. The guide who talked to us from the hotel to the airport is an author of some note. He has a website and everything!

I continue to be amazed that someone can drive a bus all day, at the same time sharing loads--and I mean great big peat bog size loads--of information. Our main driver recited limericks in County Limerick, gave us an incredibly thorough view of Ireland's past and present, and was never stumped for an answer to a question. His sense of humor made us laugh, and his passion for the numerous tragedies of the Irish people made us think.

This beautiful building was across from the Connemara Marble shop near Moycullen. Hiding in the back, as far away from us tourists as possible, are our main driver, and the driver for another bus in the same fleet. Both tour groups stayed at the same hotels and saw the same sights, with some creative timing by the drivers so we didn't all descend at one time on any venue.

I can't blame them for wanting a few minutes away from us Yanks. Do you think they told stories about us? Had a contest going, as to whose passengers shopped the most, snored while sleeping on the bus, or (the dreaded) talked while the guide was talking?

(This is how I go through life--making up what might be going on behind the scenes of any given situation.)

A bus tour may not be for everyone, but it was the ideal way for me to see the most of Ireland in the least time. We started and ended in Dublin, and in between covered as much of the country as was possible in a 40-foot bus.

Oops. Coach. I keep forgetting to call it a coach. Because of our great Coach Tour, if I ever go back, I'll know of some places I want to visit again.

I hope you'll return next week for reminiscences on a different topic. Here's another of my fab photos--Ben from the jaunting car. It's appropriate for saying The End.

2 comments:

  1. How fun! I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip and the "third bare posterior' bit made me laugh. :) Can't wait to see more about it (the tour, not the rear).

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    1. Thank you for clarifying what you wanted to see more about, Jessica. :) I appreciate you taking time to visit and comment here. Have a great week!

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