Well, we got skunked last night on our attempt to see the Northern Lights. After dinner, Jim and I raced upstairs to see if we could see the lights. We threw open the drapes in our room to gauge the weather conditions and saw … FOG. Thick and complete fog. Drat.
Nonetheless, we awoke this morning excited for today’s adventures here in the northeastern part of Iceland. As the sun rose this morning, we watched as we sailed into yet another gorgeous Icelandic fjord. This town is quite a bit bigger than Isafjordur, and is in fact, Iceland’s second largest town, Akureyri. We are in the northeast part of the island, and will travel both inland and to another fjord today.
One cute note about Akureyri as we drive out of town. In 2010, after the Icelanders had been dealing with the depressing effects of the economic downturn, the town fathers came up with an idea to have a special day of civic cheer in which they would think of a bunch of ideas to do things just to make people smile for a day. One of their better ideas was replacing the standard red light on a traffic signal with a red heart. It was such a popular idea, that now all the traffic signals in Akureyri sport these cute red lights.
Our travels this morning take us inland to see some incredible waterfalls. In fact, we will travel to one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, Godafoss. The name, Godafoss, means “waterfall of the Gods”. Legend has it that Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi, one of the Icelandic chieftains, and the equivalent of the speaker of the Icelandic parliament (Althing) decreed in the year 999 or 1000 AD that Iceland should convert to Christianity. Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi, who was himself a pagan priest at that time, had debated the switch to Christianity with the other chieftains at the Althing, but the vote was pretty much split down the middle, so he went off to meditate under a fur blanket for a day and night, and when he came back, he pronounced that he had been told to convert Iceland. He did this in spectacular fashion by throwing all his pagan articles of practice (dolls and runes and such) into the huge waterfall, which became known as Godafoss.
We drove for about an hour into the interior of Iceland, and saw some beautiful countryside crisscrossed by streams and rivers running through fields dotted with sheep. We didn’t know it, but this is prime fly fishing area, with many anglers coming to fish for both the large ocean-going trout and salmon.
I kept looking for a mountain range from which a great waterfall could fall, so it was with great surprise that I caught a glimpse of the waterfall almost hidden in a deep gorge.
We hiked along the path and down into the gorge to get these photos. As we hiked back up, we were lucky enough to have a rainbow form in the mist and sunlight atop the waterfall. Wow!
From here, it was on to the seaside town of Húsavík; the self-proclaimed whale-watching capital of Europe. We visited the whale museum (really cool exhibits and skeletons of various whales, except for the horrible smell), and ate lunch at a local restaurant.
Then it was off to get suited up in toe to head waterproof coveralls for our whale watching trip. It was a glorious day for a boat ride, even if a bit cold. However, with the sun beating down, it wasn’t long until we were all thinking of ditching our weatherproof gear. It would have to wait however, as we finally sighted a humpback whale, which we monitored as it grazed and spouted. Chris Brady: I’m waiting for you and Chelsea to identify this guy by his tale flukes!
Double bonus: as I was editing these photos, it became apparent that we had seen not one; but two whales, which could be distinguished by their separate “blows”. I’m guessing from the size and positioning, it was probably a baby swimming alongside mommy. The whales made for a perfect cap to the day!
Then it was time to head back for Akureyri, which we made just in time to cast off lines for our next port, Tórshavn, in the Faroe Islands day after tomorrow.
Jim and I arose with the dawn on this, our last day in Greenland. And what a grand day it was! We bundled up to survive the cold wind off the glaciers, and rushed up on deck. At 7 this morning, we began our 7 hour passage through Prinz Kristian Sund (Prince Christian Sound), named for the late Prince, and later King of Denmark.
As Wikipedia says: “The Prince Christian Sound connects the Labrador Sea with the Irminger Sea. It is around 100 km (60 miles) long and it is narrow, sometimes only 500 m (1500 ft) wide. There is only one settlement along this sound, Aappilattoq.
The long fjord system is mostly surrounded by steep mountains reaching over 1200 m height. Many glaciers going straight into its waters calving icebergs.”
Once again, we have been blessed with a glorious day for this passage. In fact, until last night, we were not even sure we were going to be able to do this part of our trip, as all the calving glaciers can create so much sea ice and glaciers that the passage can become unsafe, which happened to another ship just three weeks ago. While there is a possibility of seeing marine life, and animals on the surrounding slopes, the real show of the day is the topography itself. The steep walls of the main fjords and those that branch off from them are crowned with numerous glaciers, both hanging, and some reaching the sea. The water itself is a mix of saltwater overlaid with fresh water laying on top from the melting glaciers. Jim and I watched awestruck as we glided through this incredible fjord.
Jim and I have been fortunate enough to see both the Alaskan glaciers in the Bay of Glaciers and the Patagonian glaciers in Chile and Argentina. However, this is really a contender for the most awe-inspiring glacier cruise! To cap matters, the whole 100 kilometer channel is incredibly remote, with much of the passage blocked by ice most of the year. The only settlement of any size is the tiny town of Aappilattoq, which we passed about two hours into the transit. Waving goodbye to Aappilattoq, we allowed ourselves to go downstairs for breakfast. It was such a beautiful day, we actually ate outside with a prime view of the glaciers behind us.
In addition to the incredible views of the glaciers, there were also countless icebergs, and a constant wash of “sea brash” (the smaller iceberg pieces that litter the surface of the water. At one point, we all became very excited because we thought we saw a large seal sunning itself on an iceberg. However, it was just a bit of dirty ice caused by the terminal moraine at as the iceberg relentlessly ground itself down to the water and calved from its glacier. Darn! However, in my opinion, by far and away the best feature we saw was a glimpse into the massive Greenland ice sheet.
Finally, about 1:30, we exited fjord, and sailed out into the Irminger Sea. Our naturalist aboard, Dr. Michael Scott, had told us that this stretch to Iceland is some of the best whale watching area in the world, so we didn’t want to miss a minute. Jim and I took a break about 1:45 for a belated lunch. While we were eating on the stern veranda, sure enough, at least 25 whales passed by, spouting off like a calliope, but no photos as they were too far away (and my camera equipment was having a well-deserved nap).
Although still chilly this morning, it is not the bone-chilling cold of yesterday as we pull into the harbor of Qaqortoq, on the southwestern coast of Greenland. This town is very small, but not as small as Paamiut. Fortunately, the sun is shining, as we have a hike planned along a lake, which lies just outside of town. The walk through town is charming and everyone seems to have flung open their doors to greet us (or maybe just the sunshine). We expected another cold day today, but we were shedding layers before we even started our walk/hike.
We’re pretty much at the far southwestern tip of Greenland, which was originally populated by the Saqqaq people about 4300 years ago. There are some records of habitation dating from the Dorset peoples of NE Canada about 2300 years ago. However, recorded history dates back to the first Norse settlements established in the late 10th Century A.D., especially around the Hvalsey settlement, which is about 19 kilometers (12 miles) to the NE of Qaqortoq. However, for whatever reasons, those settlements died out in the 15th Century, and the current habitation dates only to 1774, when a Danish-Norwegian trader named Anders Olsen established a trading post here, originally called Julianehåb (Juliane’s Hope) after the Danish queen. Fast forward to the present day when we find Greenland a semi-autonomous state, still largely dependent on Denmark for trading and funding. The main industries are fishing and seal-hunting, and Denmark purchases about 60% of the economic output of this isolated town of just of over 3,000 people. Sadly, like in Paamiut, it appears most of the tourist souvenirs appear to be sealskin products. Sad!
With that, we were happy to proceed to our walk in the outskirts of town! The hills ringing the town appear to be a combination of granitic and basaltic stones, on which lichens and mosses appear to be struggling to survive. There are no trees here, but, upon closer inspection, you notice a whole alpine-like ecosystem covering the hills. There are tiny streams everywhere, and furzes and heathers cover the rocky ground, punctuated by tiny wildflowers and wild berries including Icelandic blueberries and cow berries. The hills are open to anyone who desires to gather them and they are all ripening now. Because the day is so still and calm, the lake surface is like a mirror, which makes for some great photography! Jim and I walked about six miles in total along the rocky lakeside path, winding up back in town. We sampled one local beer at the local tavern, and then headed back for the ship.
Once again, we are blessed with a beautiful sail away. It’s even warm enough that Jim strips down a shorts and flip flops, even though we can see little icebergs bobbing in the bay.
But, first, a lovely parting gift from Qaqortoq … as Jim and I were having a cocktail standing at the balcony of our cabin, a juvenile humpback whale surfaced right below us, and spouted off. What a fun send off!
Juvenile Humpback surfacing right under our balcony
Tomorrow, we are looking forward to a day-long transit of Prinz Kristian Sound; a deep fjord system that bisects the lower tip of Greenland from its southernmost Cape Farewell archipelago.
After two days at sea, with rough, foggy and cold weather, we pulled into Nuuk, Greenland this morning to gorgeous clear skies and a balmy 42 degrees. I spent most of the last two days editing puffin pictures from St. Johns, which I wasn’t able to upload over the last two days at sea, but we were both glad to see the sun again!
Our excursion today takes us into the fjords surrounding Nuuk, the Greenlandic capital. We’re about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle on the southwest coast of Greenland. This area was first colonized by Eric the Red, the Icelandic Viking. He brought with him 14 boats of Icelandic and Norwegian settlers, who primarily settled to take advantage of the incredible fishing off the Great Banks. He named the island “Greenland”, because as opposed to Iceland, there were actually areas along the coasts of this Arctic island which actually thawed long enough to become partially green (at least for a few days a year). This may have been the first recorded example of real estate puffery known to man because everyone who has visited this region will tell you that Iceland is way more green than Greenland!
Jim and I caught the first tender to the shore a short way from where our ship is moored in a glacial bay some ways inland from the actual coast. We were met at the dock by a small, but powerful, speed boat captained by a native Greenlander named Eric. Most of the people here show the mixed heritage of their Scandinavian and Inuit backgrounds, and both the captain and his first mate, Lena, also show the strong influence of their Inuit roots.
The approach to Nuuk is lovely, with the rising sun shining on postcard perfect houses painted in vibrant colors! The whole coastal area of Greenland was carved by the glaciers, some of which still meet the coastline. Many of those glaciers still calve icebergs into the bay, and the coast is carved into watery “arms” where the glaciers passed. We are searching for both whales and icebergs as we head out to cruise in this fjorded wonderland.
Almost right away, we see out first iceberg; a baby by Antarctic standards. This is a beautiful day for a harbor cruise, and the water is almost glass-like. However, what we all most want to see are whales; most likely humpbacks, at this time of year. We keep our eyes peeled, and I go outside periodically to snap photos as we fly across the fjords.
Sadly, it was not to be! Although there are 8-10 whales usually in the fjords surrounding Nuuk, it is a huge area encompassing miles. Eric tells us that finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack. On our way back to the ship, we stop briefly at a waterfall created by glacial melt, and Lena hops to the land to harvest some wild Greenlandic greens. We all taste what passes for salad in Greenland, and then head back to town.
It’s Sunday here in Nuuk, so not much is open. Nonetheless, Jim and I walk up the slopes into to town and we climb the hill up to the monument of Hans Egede, one of the early missionaries to this area. From there, we walked to what passes for the “mall” in town, and tried to find passable Internet to upload yesterday’s post. As you can no doubt tell from the belated post, we were not successful! Oh, Well! I used the opportunity to do a little shopping. We stocked up on some carved soapstone gifts for our relatives in Sweden, and I purchased a new warmer cap made from woven musk ox fur. Items made from seal fur were everywhere since they are not endangered animals, but I couldn’t bring myself to purchase them.
Then, it was back to the boat! Jim and I enjoyed a gorgeous sail away from Nuuk harbor up on the bow deck high on the 12th floor of the ship. We searched vainly to see any whales in the harbor as we sailed away, but it was not to be. After searching for nearly an hour, and freezing to death, we retreated back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. Tonight, newly made shipboard friends, Rob and Sarah, will join us for a specialty Indian dinner prepared just for us in the main dining room. Tomorrow, we land in Paamiut, Greenland.
Jim and I awoke this morning to glorious sunshine, which was quite the relief after a dreary day yesterday. It was all the more surprising when you consider that St. John’s, Newfoundland, has well over 100 days of fog every year, making it the most foggy place on Earth. Many of the businesses in town incorporate “fog” into their names; my favorite was a coffee shop called “Fog Off”.
St. John’s Visitors’ Bureau had certainly rolled out the red carpet for us, up to and including a beautiful Newfoundland dog. Jim and I wandered about the town and saw some of the key sights, including the town hall, the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and the Supreme Court of the Province of Labrador and Newfoundland. However, my favorite was all the brightly painted row houses that dot the hillside of this neat and friendly town.
As bright and sunny as it is today, it is not terribly difficult to imagine the town cloaked in snow; there are as many taverns and restaurants as there are churches, and many of the stores in town exist in indoor malls like you find in Toronto and Minneapolis. Jay Menzel: this poutine shop is for you! Once again, though, my primary mission this morning was to find a powerful Internet connection so I could upload the last two days blog posts.
Mission accomplished; Jim and I were ready for our excursion today: a whale and puffin watching boat trip into the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve! The Ecological Reserve is about a half hour to the southeast from St. John’s accessed from the harbor town of Bay Bulls. I’m so excited I can barely wait to get on the boat. We’ve never seen puffins in the wild, and the Witless Bay sanctuary is the largest nesting ground of the Atlantic Puffins in the world. About 260,000 nesting pairs of puffins return to the Reserve each year between late spring and summer. The islands are also home to huge colonies of Common Murres (called Guillemots in Europe), Leach’s Storm Petrel, and Black-legged Kittiwakes. There are four islands in the Reserve: Gull, Green, Great and Pee Pee islands.
Today, we will visit Gull Island and go by Green island on our return. As you might imagine, with a name like Gull Island, this nesting ground is also home to thousands of different gulls, which, sadly, feed on baby puffins. Our tour operator for the cruise is O’Briens’ Whale and Puffin Watching Tour; run by the descendants one of the numerous Irish families in this area. Our tour guide, Con O’Brien, is also a very well-known local and national singing star. On the very rough trip over to Gull Island, Con serenaded us with an Irish ballad, and the boat’s sound system played several numbers by his group, the Irish Descendants.
As we approached Gull Island, you first saw puffins in the water, and then in huge swarms flying overhead. As we pulled in closer to the island, you could see them and their hundreds of burrows stretching up the slopes of the island. In many spots, hungry gulls would perch on the slopes near those burrows, just looking for a chance to pick off an unwary puffin. Although I know these are a ton of photos, please appreciate that I took over a 1,000 photos today!
As we piloted around the island, and the topography changed, so did the kind of nesting birds we saw. While the puffins nest in burrows they dig into the grassy banks of the islands, murres lay their eggs right on naked rock ledges. We didn’t see any storm petrels of great auks, but we did see some kittiwakes, which also nest in the rock crevasses, but actually build grassy nests to shelter their eggs.
Then it was time to return to port, and the serious hunt for whales began. Jim took the opportunity to try a local specialty beer called “Iceberg Beer” which aptly describes its water source. In the spring and early summer each year, Arctic icebergs wash down along the east coast of Newfoundland, and the icebergs are harvested to provide the water for the beer. 20,000 years pure, as the Newfoundlanders like to say!
However, it wasn’t until we got back into Bay Bulls that we saw our first (and only) whale. This was a humpback grazing in the harbor, and it accommodatingly surfaced several times so we could record its passing.
On the way back to town, we stopped briefly for a photo opp in the scenic little town of Petty Harbor. Had we gone a couple more miles to the east, we would have seen the lighthouse at Cape Spear, which is the eastern-most point in North America. But, no worries! We will sail out within view of it tonight.
Once we got back to the ship, Jim and I headed up to the top deck to snap some final pictures of the terraced skyline of St. John’s. Jim and I enjoyed the sail away from the beauty of our balcony deck. We are pretty darn sure that as we enter the Labrador Current tonight enroute to Greenland, that this is the last night we will be able to enjoy the balcony in a long while! See you in a couple of days when we pull into port in Nuuk, Greenland!
During last night’s sail, we took a detour off the St. Lawrence seaway into the Saguenay Fjord; a deep glacial fjord which has an intriguing mix of very rich cold tidal water flowing in from the Labrador current running through the St. Lawrence estuary, overlaid with a much thinner layer of fresh river water running into the fjord down the Saguenay River from Lac St. Jean. Since the fjord is open to the ocean, it has very abundant sea life, and whales follow that sea life up the fjord most of the way to Saguenay. Notably, the fjord is home to a small population of Beluga whales, which have probably populated the fjord since the last ice age. Sadly, this particular population is highly endangered, with only about 1,000 of them remaining. For this reason, the entire fjord area and some of the St. Lawrence estuary beyond has been named as a national marine park (with attendant restrictions on human interaction with the whales) in order to protect them. Overlaying the marine park is a national land park, stretching several miles inland from the shores of the fjord. This map generally shows the area we have entered.
Our activity du jour consists of a hike up into the national park in order to better see the fjord. However, since that didn’t happen until later this afternoon, Jim and I had time to walk into town and wander around. One thing you notice immediately is how many greeters are on hand to welcome you to the Saguenay region. All the greeters are volunteers, and there are about 50 of them that spring into action every time a cruise ship comes into town. As we later learned from our guide, tourism is now the number one industry here, although historically, the town was originally a huge logging and lumber/paper/pulp processing area. More recently (and still), the town is also home to a large aluminum smelting operation, which is crazy when you consider that bauxite does not naturally occur here, thus requiring it to be shipped in constantly. This enterprise only makes sense financially because of the abundance of cheap Canadian power, which is made possible by the numerous dams creating hydropower.
The guide was quick to tell us that the Saguenay region sees tourists for all four seasons, which seems hard to believe, given how remote it is (about 3 hours by car from Québec in the best of conditions), and that the town regularly gets 9 meters of snow, while the surrounding hills routinely get 30 meters! Apparently, ice fishing is also a big winter sport, but with temperatures that get down to minus 40 degrees every winter, the prospective charm of this is lost on us.
Jim and I wandered around town, and visited a local craft market. Then we hiked up to the upper elevations of the town to get the best views of the fjord, and returned to the ship through the lovely seaside park. There were numerous cafés with outside seating, but all I could think of was the snow accumulations soon to come.
We boarded school busses for our tour out to the Fjord du Saguenay National Park. There, a park ranger met us, and led us on a hike up a very rustic path, climbing about 200 meters up to a lookout overlooking Cape Trinity inlet. The Park is home to abundant wildlife, including moose, beavers, marmots, foxes, snowshoe hares, lynx, grey wolves and black bears. However, we saw none of them, but enjoyed a very fragrant hike through the woods nonetheless!
Upon our descent, it was time to beat feet back to the ship, because tonight was “Block Party” night aboard. This means that everyone gathers in the hallways outside their bedrooms to meet their neighbors, while the ship staff passed wine and appetizers. It was really nice meeting our cabin mates, and we learned that several of them are also from Southern California.
Then Jim and I went up to the top bow of the ship to watch the sunset cruise out the fjord. I was fortunate to catch a carved statue of the Virgin Mary high atop the entrance to Cape Trinity just as we lost the light. We ended the day with a lively dinner with a British couple we met earlier on the hike, Rob and Sarah, which made for a really special cap to a super day.
This morning we beat feet to the south, with an ultimate destination of the K Club in Kildare, just south of Dublin. However, our first stop for the day in just outside of Drogheda, to see the Unesco World Heritage Site of Newgrange–the location of a trio of immense Neolithic passage tombs. This historical site is known as Brú na Bóinne in the local Gaelic, and is located back in the Irish Republic along the Boyne River in County Meath. It is comprised of three different historical ruins, which are called Knowth, Dowth, and Newgrange.
Newgrange is the oldest site and was constructed about in about 3200 B.C. (5200 years ago). The Knowth and Dowth sites are a little newer, but all of them were constructed before the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and before Stonehenge in England. The passage tombs are large domed circular structures with an earthen roof built over internal stones lined up to create a passage to an internal chamber in which the cremated remains of ancestors could be laid until sunlight from the winter solstice crept down the 21 yard passage and lighted stone bowls in which the cremated remains were kept. In this way, the Neolithic people believed the souls of the dead were transported to the afterlife. Around the outside of each tomb is a collar of “kerb stones”, which are decorated with patterned carvings. Even now, over 5,000 years later, the sun still reaches the inner chamber at dawn on the winter solstice, and over 30,000 people sign up for a lottery each year which determines the lucky few able to witness this phenomenon in person. It being Ireland, though, and her highly fickle weather; even if you win the lottery, you might not see the sun that day!
All of the sites are accessed from the Visitors’ Center via small busses, but you have to buy a ticket to each site. Since access is controlled, you are given a timed ticket to access each site. Sadly, the tickets for Newgrange were sold out until 1:00 this afternoon (it was only about 10:00 when we arrived), so we elected to go to the Knowth site instead. But first, we learned more about these Neolithic people in the Visitors’ Center, which has exhibits based on their food, dress, and village structures, as well as two replica inner chambers: the one at Newgrange, and the entrance to Knowth.
As we went out to the Knowth site, we were fortunate to meet up with a docent who was just beginning a lecture about the Knowth site. As I mentioned earlier, it was built later than Newgrange, having been constructed between about 2500-2000 B.C., so it is still older than The Great Pyramid at Giza. However, unlike the Newgrange site, this passage tomb was constructed with an east and west entrance which allowed the sun to enter on the equinoxes in spring and summer. Sadly, because the Knowth site was later used for settlement through the Middle Ages, and the later inhabitants constructed a hill fort and subterranean structures which may have been used as passages or for storage, the two passages no longer align for sunlight to enter on the equinoxes.
The Knowth passage tomb site is the largest of the three tombs, and is surrounded by 17 satellite tombs. It also has the largest collection of kerb stones encircling it, although some are missing and others damaged. However, outside the eastern entrance is a timber circle (think Stonehenge in wood), which is believed to have been constructed in the late Neolithic or early Iron Age (starting bout 2200-2000 B.C.), and the central tomb was believed to have already been in disuse by that time. As mentioned above, the site was abandoned and repurposed for human habitation beginning in the late Iron Age/early Christian period.
The kerb stones have really simple, but pretty carvings on them, and are more varied than those at Newgrange. Interestingly, one of the most common patterns is that of a spiral, which we have seen in other cultures (notably the Incan and Mayan), as well as some other cultures where it depicts the Earth Mother, and fertility or the circle of Life. One other interesting fact about these stones is that they were originally installed with the carving facing inward, in a style known as “hidden art”. Upon closer inspection, we could also see numerous “sand martins” (we call them bank sparrows in America), who had built nests in the grass edge right above the kerb stones.
We also climbed to the top of the tomb, from which you could see all over the Boyne Valley. You could also see the Newgrange site in the distance, as well as the ruins of Mellifont Abbey, which was established by the Cistercians. Weren’t they just the busy little religious order?!!!!
We then decided to beat feet directly to the K Club in Kildare, as our lodgings have been upgraded, so we will be staying in the mansion known as Straffan House, located on the property. Sadly, we will also be bidding farewell to Dermott, but after nearly two weeks with all of us, I imagine he’ll be glad to sleep in his own bed and reacquaint himself with his wife!
We were treated like royalty upon arrival and driven to the remote property where Straffan House is located. The house is the private resident of Sir Smurfit, and was designed to look like the original Straffan House, which became the Kildare Hotel, now known as the K Club. The Smurfits were among the original founders of the K Club, and now own it outright. The new Straffan House is now available for lease to large groups at an astronomical cost, but I guess when it wasn’t rented (or being used by the Smurfit family), it serves as a kind of overflow accommodations.This is what greeted us as we arrived.
I had stayed at the K Club about 10 years ago on a business trip to meet with my company’s London and Irish insurance brokers, and I had treasured my memories of this grand old place. As you can see, Straffan House is a complete luxury showcase, complete with its own butler (named Patrick), movie theatre, gym, spa and pool, and golf carts provided for getting around the property. However, this is when reality set in.
I will preface these comments by saying that I am about to whine about what are clearly “FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS”, and I recognize that (and gave some thought to not mentioning any of this, but decided to leave you readers with an accurate account of our good stroke of fortune turned bad). After Patrick showed us to our rooms, we noticed that the rooms themselves, although nice, were certainly nothing to write home about, and ours was about as modest as my nephew’s room back home. More importantly, some of the rooms had no ensuite bathroom, and none of the bedrooms had air-conditioning. The whole house was about as hot as a sauna when we arrived, and although the pool room and gym downstairs apparently had air conditioning; since it was not working, those amenities were unusable. We had been told that whatever we wished in terms of food or drink could be provided at the house by merely letting Patrick know. The problem was that management had not authorized Patrick to do this and had not provisioned the house. Since the main hotel property is about 7-9 minutes away by car (and about 10 minutes directly across one of the golf courses by golf cart), that left us having to drive the carts to get anything we wanted or waiting forever for someone to come from the main hotel to drive us.
Since Jim and I wanted a cocktail after we settled in to celebrate the last night of the trip, we took 1 of the carts over to the main hotel. While that we cool (and we even saw a bunny playing on the greens), when we were ready to back to house to join our group for dinner, we got trapped at the main hotel by a huge thunderstorm deluge, and then had to wait some time to get back to Straffan House, and the vans had to make two trips to ferry us all to dinner.
The crowning blow came the next morning, though. After arising early (after having sweated my way through the night because of no air conditioning and humidity outside) so we could eat breakfast and then leave for the airport, the chef who was supposed to show up and bring provisions and cook breakfast never arrived. Calls by Patrick to the main hotel didn’t produce any results, so Patrick found us a couple of tubs of yogurt and some fruit (probably his), and we had to leave. The conclusion was inescapable: we would have been better off staying in the main hotel.
While this was a less than stellar end to a great trip, Jim and I will still look back on our trip to Ireland as a wonderful exposure to a great company, and especially, its warm and welcoming people. Stay tuned, as our next adventure (starting in August) all take us through the Canadian Maritime provinces and on to, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Thanks for reading along!