Our trip to Graigue / Dunquin
on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
April 11-20, 2008
Page 1: Graigue Cottage
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Page 1: Graigue Cottage
Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12
Snow was forecast for the weekend but it only drizzled the day we left. When we got to O’Hare it was practically empty: American had taken over 1000 MD80s out of service the day before to comply with the new FAA maintenance rules! We breezed through security and paid the Flagship Lounge a brief visit before boarding.
Our seats were the two in the middle and were the new configuration which was infinitely adjustable. We departed on time at 7:15pm and were on the ground at 8:30am the following morning, on time. We were, however, a mile from the baggage claim! In spite of the long walk, there were only a few bags on the carrousel and the rest were coming out slowly. We waited and waited, hoping they hadn’t been misdirected, until we finally saw one of them and then the other. Thank goodness.
We grabbed a cart and made our way to the rental car counter. While KC waited in line I went looking for an ATM. The one around the corner had an “out of service” sign on it and the guy servicing it told me there was another one by the currency exchange upstairs, and one at the other end of the terminal. When I rejoined KC he was finalizing the rental car agreement and I overheard him agree to a 15 euro per day charge for insurance even though I knew we had requested the CDR insurance that the credit card company would cover.
When we left the counter I asked him to explain and he told me that the CDR had an 1800 euro deductable and, having been burned by that before, when someone backed into his car in a parking lot, he was OK with the 15 euro per day insurance that would cover the deductible. However, he was dismayed to see that they had converted the Euros to dollars at a usurious rate. He was also irritated by the full tank of gas they charged us for, also at a usurious rate, requesting that the car be returned empty. “Oh,” he said, “we’ll return it so empty they’ll have to push it to the filling station!” He fumed over both those things while we went to the ATM on the upper floor.
The car we rented, a Zaphira:
KC was still fuming about the “exchange rate” the rental place had used so I suggested we go back and ask them to run it through again, in Euros. We did, mentioning to the agent that our bank gave us a much better rate, and were told that it was just an estimate. The bill WOULD go through in Euros. The conversion was done as a courtesy, using the current exchange rates, to give you an idea of what the charge would be. We heaved a sigh of relief and went off to wait for Rick and Colleen. Within minutes, they called to let us know they were off the plane and at the baggage carrousel.
While we were waiting, KC asked me to get out the maps. Huh? I’d given HIM the maps to pack because my carryon was already full. He didn’t remember me giving him any maps, even though he’d packed the Scrabble game that had been underneath them. So, after listening to me wail about the $40 laminated map I’d managed to score before we left, he trundled off to find a replacement.
While he was gone, Rick and Colleen came out of baggage claim, in time to see KC return with “the best map ever”. For the rest of the trip, every time he looked at that map it was, “the best map ever” and I cracked up. Thank goodness he has a sense of humor.
We made one last trip to the ATM, hit the washrooms, and picked up the car. There was plenty of room in the rear for all our bags although we were wise to have limited ourselves to one bag apiece. The back seat looked comfortable and Rick and Colleen offered to sit there letting me have the front. KC was the only person on the rental agreement – adding another driver would have added 7 euro per day.
We were on the road at 10:50 a.m. Rick was our designated navigator (I have trouble reading in a moving car) and he chose a route using “the best map ever.” We made one wrong turn coming off of M7 but quickly recovered and were on our way! The weather vacillated between overcast and drizzly, and partly sunny, sometime within minutes.
Colleen had a cold which was plugging up her ears and messing with her equilibrium. She couldn’t stomach KC’s exuberant driving style on the twisty turning roads so KC did his best to slow down before each curve. It was a challenge for him and he frequently forgot although he truly was trying hard to be ‘good’. He was motivated though -- Colleen was sitting behind him and he really didn’t want her throwing up on his head!
Around 1 pm. we started looking for a place to eat but didn’t see anything that offered ‘food all day’ until we got to
We had driven through there last year and remembered it as a really beautiful place so we turned off at the first sign that read ‘food all day’ and ended up at Timmy Macs in the Woodland House Hotel, a wonderful little restaurant with a huge fireplace in which they were burning logs that looked like they’d taken a whole tree trunk and sliced it into rounds:
Colleen ordered a chicken curry and the rest of us had bangers and mash. Rick and KC inhaled theirs but the sausages weren’t “real” bangers, flavored with nutmeg and allspice, and they were huge so I only ate one. Colleen enjoyed her curry and shared it with Rick. We skipped dessert and were back on the road within the hour. Until this point, we had been on a highway, originally a 3-lane, then a 2-lane, and finally a one lane road. After Adare the roads became narrower and the scenery more rural.
Periodically we would see a sign that read “Traffic Calming” which, KC explained, meant that the road would narrow, forcing you to slow down. Theoretically. Eventually we got down to a half-lane road. One lane for both directions! As you can see in the shots below, there are wider areas every now and then to allow two cars to pass. Everyone is courteous and always waves as you pass.
Half lane road and two cars passing (taken through car window):
As you can see, the foliage is just starting to turn green at this time of year.
When we got to Dingle, we stopped in Garvey’s supermarket to pick up provisions. We’d forgotten that the carts in Ireland are not free – you put in a one euro coin to get the cart and you get your one euro back when you return the cart. Fortunately, we had change! (There is an ATM in Garvey’s)
Entrance to Garvey’s:
Locks on the grocery carts:
We didn’t know what would be provided at the cottage so we bought the minimum to get us through the night. I did, however, get some of that linseed bread that I’d enjoyed so much last year – thank goodness they still had it! We also picked up a number 70 map to replace the one KC had left behind. I noted that, unlike US grocery stores, the cashiers in Garvey’s are sitting down.
When we left Dingle, I called Philomena (pronounced phil-o-mee’na) and told her we were on our way.
We had no trouble finding the cottage. We had located it on Google Earth before we left and, using Philomena’s directions and the photo on her website of the view from the living room, we triangulated its location almost exactly. We pulled up at around 5:30 p.m. 6.5 hours after leaving Dublin.
Close-up location of the cottage in Graigue (pronounced groig):
This year’s cottage with respect to last year’s
Although it was a little farther from the coastline, the view was more spectacular:
Stone Cottage in Graigue / Dunquin
Wow! The cottage was Philomenal!
(This is an intentional misspelling because the cottage, and its owner Philomena, were both
The stone cottage we stayed in this year had some big shoes to fill (given how much we loved last year’s cottage) and we all agreed that it EXCEEDED OUR EXPECTATIONS! It had all the comfort, conveniences, and charm that we’d had last year, but more of it, and was perfect in every respect. The cottage was one of the BEST parts of this trip!
First of all, it was huge! There are four bedrooms and they ALL HAVE AN ATTACHED (en-suite) BATH with a toilet, sink, shower and a heated towel bar (with two big, soft, thirsty towels)! Any one who knows me knows how crucial a private bath is to me and for that reason alone this cottage was a rare find!
The master bedroom had a queen bed with a VERY comfortable mattress, a spectacular view of the coastline, and a large sitting area. (I mention this first – can you tell what’s important to me?) Two of the other bedrooms have a double bed, and the forth bedroom has two twin beds. In addition to the en-suite bathrooms, there was a powder room on the ground floor. The master bath had a large tub, which we did not use, and a hair dryer which we did.
The kitchen was very big and modern with a full-size refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher and was well stocked with pots, pans, utensils, knives, cutting boards, bowls, dishes, glasses, silverware, and linens. There was a 12-cup electric coffee machine and a toaster.
The living-dining area had TWO HUGE PICTURE WINDOWS LOOKING OUT ON SYBIL HEAD AND THE THREE SISTERS! This, I think, was the cottage’s most unique and spectacular feature. The furniture was very comfortable – the guys spent many afternoons napping in the living room which is testament to that – and the coffee table was large enough for all the maps and books we were constantly referencing.
Off the living-dining area was a large patio, also with a view of the shoreline, and with a picnic table that will seat 8. The house was surrounded by pastures and there were sheep grazing there almost every day.
In a room under the patio were a full size washer and dryer. Having a washer and dryer meant we could pack light and do laundry half way through the week. The previous occupants had left us some salt and pepper, dish soap, sponges, paper towels, cling wrap, toilet paper and detergent all of which we really appreciated – it’s rough having to buy a whole box of detergent to do two loads.
Although we did not use them, there was a radio/CD player, TV, DVD player, bicycle, and charcoal grill.
The cottage looked EXACTLY like the photos on the website and was immaculate. There were windows everywhere and tons of skylights so it was bright and cheery. The parking area was also huge and would have held 4 cars if we’d had them, a boon when you cannot park on the side of the road. Also, because every bedroom has an attached (en-suite) bathroom, three adult couples can share the cottage!
When we went inside, the sun was streaming in through the large picture windows overlooking Sybil Head and Irish folk music wafted from the CD player in the living room. It couldn’t have been a more inviting welcome. So, I ordered everyone to stand back while I took pictures to record the moment for posterity:
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The exterior (taken at 5:30 p.m.) was all stone, a requirement for us:
The first thing we saw – the foyer (with a slate floor!):
On the right was the living room (the furniture was very comfortable):
The SPECTACULAR view from the living dining area:
The dining room with seating for 8:
The fireplace, visible from both the living and dining rooms:
The kitchen was huge:
Another view of the living-dining with view of the fireplace and entry to kitchen:
The powder room, to the left of the front door:
The master bedroom, upstairs:
The master bathroom (the shower was wonderful!):
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Colleen and Rick chose the bedroom on the ground floor. We took the master bedroom above the living/dining area. KC and I are night owls so we thought that would work out best.
About an hour after we arrived, Phil’s daughter Sharon popped in to welcome us (Phil’s son had her car). She lives around the corner from the cottage and gave us advice on things to do in the area, like having a coffee at Sammy’s Café on Inch beach. KC asked her about climbing Brandon Mountain and she assured him it was possible. Sharon has 4 brothers and two sisters! Two of her brothers now run Krueger’s Pub , and one of her brothers owns sheep but they were not the ones in the pasture behind the house.
The rent for the cottage does not include oil and electricity. Those utilities are extra and payable on departure, so we found the meters and tried to figure out how fast they were running. We got them mixed up and thought that the oil meter – billed at 2 Euros per unit -- was running at 4 units per hour so we turned the registers as low as we could and practically froze our butts off! We turned them back up and, the next day, we realized that we’d been looking at the electric meter – billed at 20 CENTS per unit – and that we could afford to keep the cottage at a comfortable temperature, and the water heater and the heated towels bars (both of which have their own switch) on. The utilities for the entire week were under 100 Euros, VERY reasonable.
Dinner that night was cheese and crackers while we browsed the many books in the cottage and figured out what we wanted to see and do. KC really wanted to climb Brandon Mountain and found a book that described both trails, the harder but more scenic western one, and the easier eastern one. Rick is a member of
a group of people who place “caches” all over the world and post the coordinates on the website. The members have GPS units that read a set of coordinates and tell you how far away you are and they use them to find the caches left by the other members, sort of like a global treasure hunt. Rick’s goal this trip was to find the caches on the summit of the Great Blasket Island and in the gardens at Blarney Castle in Cork, and to leave one of his own somewhere. He and Colleen also wanted to visit the Jameson Distillery in Middleton. My goal? Music. As much as possible! I also wanted to spend some time in Dingle visiting the people we’d met last year and checking out the shops.
Since Cork (Blarney Castle and Jamison’s) was a 3-hour drive away we decided to do that on Wednesday, midway between the drive out of and into Dublin. We left Brandon Mountain for the end of the week to give KC a chance to determine which route he wanted to take. We didn’t know whether the Blasket Island ferry was running – Sharon thought it had been too cold -- so I called them and left a message. We hoped to do that on Tuesday, if possible. For tomorrow, we decided to drive up to Corralougha Strand, via Connor Pass. Rick and Colleen are scuba divers and KC had seen an ad for a dive shop on Scraggane Bay. On our return we would attempt to find the eastern access to Brandon Mountain.
The places we wanted to visit this trip (excluding Cork):
After dinner, Rick and KC played poker until KC ran out of “money”, I updated my journal, and we went to bed around 10:30 pm.
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