10 June 2012, Gail’s trip log

I finally made it to Ireland, land of my heritage. Our first of three stops was in the Port of Cobh, a few miles from the city of Cork – and more importantly to many, the Blarney Stone. I did not personally go up and kiss it, but we watched many of our fellow passengers do it from below this afternoon. I was actually impressed with how efficiently Princess got the tours off the ship and onto the buses. We were lucky, too, and got the very first seat on the bus, which gave us a fantastic view. Our guide was very good. First we drove about an hour through the lush green countryside after we left the port area. They have had lots of rain this spring but it didn’t rain today – partly cloudy and mild all day (in the 60s). About 930 we reached the quaint town of Youghal on the eastern shore. We had an hour to spend there. It is where John Huston and Gregory Peck filmed Moby Dick almost sixty years ago and also the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, who brought potatoes and tobacco to Ireland from America. We walked around for a while and then had some tea and scones in a little café. Back on the bus we drove back and drove through the city of Cork – on the Lee River – with lots of history and old buildings – very interesting. About 1200 we stopped, along with 4 or 5 other buses at a huge banquet pub facility for lunch of Irish stew, brown bread and beer if we wanted it. We were entertained by two excellent musicians, half of a group named the Irish Weavers (the other two were at another venue with the rest of the tour buses), and two young Irish dancers. The service was very efficient and the entertainment was an unexpected bonus. After lunch it was off to the main event – Blarney Castle and the chance to stand in line for two hours and climb a very narrow twisting stairway to kiss the Blarney Stone. We had two hours there and the line wasn’t too bad when we first arrived, but we chose to just walk around the beautiful Castle grounds. Dan took tons of pictures, of course. By the time we left the castle area after an hour or so the line was extremely long and I’m quite sure some of those folks never got a chance to kiss the stone before their buses left. There were many tour buses there, not just ones from our ship. Adjacent to the castle is the Blarney Woolens Shop of everything Irish made in the world (they claim). Dan wandered around for quite a while and then I joined him and looked around. Dan bought some postcards and I got a knit hat, which will come in handy in northern Scotland next week. Back to the ship about 430, we had burger and fries and back to the cabin. Dan went out for a snack later. We will be in Dublin tomorrow, but our tour is afternoon, so we can sleep in.

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