Friday, June 28, 2013

Asian Eyes' Ireland - Limerick

THE PLACE: 
          Limerick is a city located in the mid-west region of Ireland. Limerick City is built on several curves and islands of the River Shannon, which spreads into an estuary shortly downriver from Limerick. It is the 3rd most populous city in the state and the 5th most populous on the island of Ireland. It was the 1st city to receive the designation of City of Culture.

THE ROUTE: 
         Flying in from Penang using Malaysian Airlines to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to London Heathrow (LHR), followed by Aer Lingus from Heathrow (LHR) to Shannon (SNN). The leg between KUL and LHR was a A380, very stable and smooth ride. Stopovers in Kuala Lumpur International Airport was 2 hours and at London Heathrow Airport was a long 5 hours. Immigration to enter into Ireland was done at London LHR, and since it was early 6 am, there was no queue. Malaysian does not need a visa to enter UK or Ireland. All in my journey to Limerick took 20 hours included transit time. 
http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/my/en.html
http://www.aerlingus.com/en-US/home/index.jsp

WHERE TO STAY:
The Limerick Strand Hotel, 
O’Callaghan Strand at Ennis Rd, Limerick, Ireland. 
+353 61 421 800
http://www.strandhotellimerick.ie/
          The hotel site was previously a Jury’s Hotel but was demolished to make way for 7 story, ultra modern building,  Limerick Strand Hotel. Its in house restaurant, The River Restaurant, recently was awarded a One Star AA Rosette for culinary excellence, winner of two Great Taste Awards 2011& 2012, Irish Food Awards. One can enjoy the 'Best Views in Limerick' with the finest quality of Irish & International cuisine that Executive Chef Tom Flavin and his culinary team create.Tom Flavin was awarded 'Best Chef Limerick' at the Irish Restaurant Awards 2013 and was awarded 'Just Ask' Bord Bia Restaurant for the Month - August 2012 by Georgina Campbell for our promotion and use of local producers.

Other hotels:
The Savoy Hotel Limerick, 
Henry St., Limerick City, Ireland.
+353 61 448 700
www.savoylimerick.com/


Clarion Hotel Limerick, 
Steamboat Quay, Limerick, Ireland.
+353 61 444 100
www.clarionhotellimerick.com/

Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort
Main St., Adare, Ireland.
+353 61 605 200
www.adaremanor.com/  

THE DRAW: 

1. EXPLORE LIMERICK’S MOST ICONIC LANDMARK, KING JOHN’S CASTLE.
Telephone+353 (0)61 36 0788
Fax:+353 (0)61 36 1020
Email: reservations@shannonheritage.com 
Address: Shannon Heritage Reservations, Kings Island, Limerick City, Co Limerick, Republic of Ireland
          Experience 800 years of history in Limerick City. King John’s Castle is a 13th century Castle on King’s Island in the heart of medieval Limerick. This castle, on King’s Island in the heart of medieval Limerick City, overlooks the majestic River Shannon and offers wonderful views of Limerick City. Discover history at its best, magnificent views and life in Norman times. Explore 800 years of history brought to life in the imaginative historical exhibition, excavated pre-Norman houses, fortifications, siege mines and the battlement walks. King John, as Lord of Ireland, minted his own coins and the Royal moneyer would have struck the coins in the castle mint. Today you can receive your own special coin as a souvenir of your visit to the castle. The sights, scenes and sounds of the castle and its environs all combine to recreate the atmosphere of the era.

2. SEE THE INTERNATIONALLY IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF ART AND ARTIFACTS AT THE HUNT MUSEUM.
Telephone+353 (0)61 31 2833
Fax:+353 (0)61 31 2834
Email: info@huntmuseum.com 
Website: www.huntmuseum.com/‎
Address: The Custom House, Rutland Street, Limerick City, Co Limerick, Republic of Ireland        
        The Hunt Museum is a museum in the city of Limerick, Ireland. Holding a personal collection donated by the Hunt family, it was originally situated in the University of Limerick, before being moved to its present location in 1997. It can now be visited in the old custom house, a historic 18th century building by the River Shannon in Rutland Street, in central Limerick. The east end of Limerick's quays began at this area of the river, recently made home to a marina. The Hunt Museum holds about 2000 different artifacts, both from Ireland and abroad. The oldest pieces are from stone-age Ireland and ancient Egypt. The collection includes the Antrim Cross (a 9th-century bronze and enamel cross), dresses by Irish designer Sybil Connolly, drawings by Picasso and a bronze horse once thought to be a design by Leonardo da Vinci for a large monument. The Museum's most significant collection is its Irish medieval collection which includes the fifteenth century O'Dea Mitre and Crozier, on loan from the Roman Catholic diocese of Limerick. Exhibiting one of Ireland's greatest private collections of art and antiquities, dating from the Neolithic to the 20th Century, including works by Renoir, Picasso and Yeats.

3. EXPLORE THE HIDDEN HISTORIES OF NEOLITHIC LOUGH GUR.
Lough Gur, Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.loughgur.com/          
          Lough Gur is a lake in County Limerick, Ireland between the towns of Herbertstown and Bruff. The lake forms a horseshoe shape at the base of Knockadoon Hill and some rugged elevated countryside. It is one of Ireland's most important archaeological sites. You will be captivated by the beauty, charm and tranquility of this ancient place. The visitor center tells the story of Pre-Celtic Ireland dating back to 3000 BC. Humans have lived near Lough Gur since about 3,000 BC and there are numerous megalithic remains there. Grange stone circle (the largest stone circle in Ireland) and a dolmen are located near the lake. The remains of at least three crannogs are present, and remains of Stone Age houses have been unearthed  with the house outlines are known as "The Spectacles". A number of ring forts are found in the area, with one hill fort overlooking the lake. Some are Irish national monuments. A visitors' center is open beside Lough Gur, along with a car park and picnic area. The location is pleasant, particularly in the summer months. A gradual shore-line is present at the visitor area, with a shallow section of lake reaching up to the maintained lawn. As a result, the area is often used for water sports. Motorized craft are banned on the lake. There is a castle or tower house near the entrance to the car park. Named Bourchier's Castle after Sir George Bourchier, the son of the second Earl of Bath, it lies at the neck of the peninsula around which the lake washes. There is some other architecture dating from more recent times, with the ruins of an early Christian church by the road leading down to the lake. At the far end of the lake are the ruins of a Norman castle, Black Castle, which is reached by a hill-side walk along the east side of the lake. This is one of the keeps used during the Desmond Rebellions, and is probably the place where the Earl of Desmond secured his authority in 1573 after casting off his English apparel and donning Irish garments on his return to Munster from London.

4. VISIT LIMERICK’S OLDEST BUILDING STILL IN DAILY USE, THE 11TH CENTURY ST. MARY’S CATHEDRAL.
Telephone+353 (0)61 31 0293
Fax:+353 (0)61 31 5721
Email: stmaryscathedralcoI@yahoo.ie 
Website: www.cathedral.limerick.anglican.org
Address: Bridge Street, Limerick City, Co Limerick, Republic Of Ireland
           Most noteworthy relics of the past, within the ancient Cathedral, are the ancient altar stone used when Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral and the splendidly carved misericords in the choir. The Cathedral of St Mary Blessed Virgin occupies a very historic plot in Limerick City. In 1168, Donal Mor O’Brien, King of Munster, donated his palace, parts of which are possibly incorporated into the present structure. Previously, a Viking meetinghouse had been located there. The cathedral's architecture is a mixture of the Gothic and Romanesque styles. It contains many interesting features, such as a stone altar and Lepers’ Squint, an opening in the wall that permitted lepers to hear Mass and receive Communion.

5. VISIT "IRELAND’S PRETTIEST VILLAGE" - ADARE, COUNTY LIMERICK 
http://www.adareheritagecentre.ie/           
        Adare, means "ford of the oak", is a village in County Limerick, Ireland. Adare's origin is as a settlement by a crossing point on the river Maigue. It is situated 16 km from Limerick city. Renowned as one of Ireland's prettiest villages, Adare is designated as a Heritage Town by the Irish government. Due to its origin as village of the Dunraven estate, Adare has a more planned appearance than many Irish villages and towns. Adare is known as Ireland’s prettiest village. Among the many gems in the village are Desmond Castle, The Franciscan Priory, the Trinitarian Priory and Augustinian Priory.
        Adare Heritage Centre snuggled in a wooded setting among the rich quiet farmlands of the Golden Vale by the River Maigue, Adare is a model village dating from the time of the Norman Conquest. It has been home to the Earls of Dunraven for over three centuries. Thatched cottages line its broad street, punctuated with beautiful stone buildings and picturesque ruins. The River Maigue flows under a graceful stone bridge and alongside medieval monasteries which quietly count the passing centuries. Adare Heritage Centre is located in the heart of the Village. 
       Adare Heritage Centre hosts an interactive historical exhibition which traces Adares unique history and operates tours of Adare Village and Desmond Castle, one of the few remaining authentic Norman Castles in Europe. The Dovecot Restaurant, the Centres 80 seater Bistro, offers breakfast, lunch and tasty homemade cakes. With shopping areas and the village Tourist Office on site, Adare Heritage Centre is a must for every visitor.

6. TAKE AN OPEN TOP BUS TOUR OF THE CITY
Phone: +353 61 334920
Tours Operate Daily from March until the weather gets TOO cold!
Join the tour at Bank Place at: 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm
Tour Fares:
Adult: €10
Senior Citizen/Student:  €7
Family (2 Adults and up to 2 children U12) €24
Child (U12): €5
Children under 5 – Free of Charge
www.redvikingtours.com
         With Red Viking Tours you can hop on a red open top tour bus and enjoy live commentary as you ride through a city steeped in history.
This fun, educational and friendly tour departs from Bank Place in the center of the city every day from March till late in the year taking in all of the city’s main historical landmarks and sites. You can also avail of an extended tour and take the opportunity to visit some of the beautiful sites around Limerick. 

7. BUNRATTY CASTLE, BUNRATTY, CO CLARE.  
Shannon Heritage Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Bunratty, Co. Clare, Ireland.
Tel: +353 (0)61 360788
 www.shannonheritage.com/Attractions/BunrattyCastleandFolkPark/‎
        Bunratty castle is an interesting place, and is connected to a "folk park" that shows historical rural Irish life, complete with animals. The site on which Bunratty Castle stands was in origin a Viking Trading Camp in 970. The present structure is the last of 4 castles to be built on the site. Robert De Muscegros, a Norman, built the first defensive fortress, an earthen mound with a strong wooden tower on top, in 1250. His lands were later granted to Thomas De Clare who built the first stone castle on the site. About this time Bunratty became a large town of 1,000 inhabitants. It was then opened to the public in 1960 as a National Monument and is open to visitors year round. It is the most complete and authentically restored and furnished castle in Ireland.



8. University of Limerick
www.ul.ie/
         The University of Limerick (UL) is a university in Ireland near the city of Limerick. It was established in 1972 as the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick and became a university by statute in 1989 in accordance with the University of Limerick Act 1989. The university was the first university established since the foundation of the State in 1922, followed later the same day by the establishment of Dublin City University.
The university is located along the River Shannon, on a 200 acres site in the 590 acres National Technological Park at Castletroy, 5 km from Limerick city center. The university has currently in excess of 11,000 full-time undergraduate students and 1,500 part-time students. There are also over 800 research postgraduates and 1,300 taught postgraduate students at the university. The Co-operative Education program allocates all students with an 8-month work placement as part of their degree. This was the first such programs in the state.

9. Cliffs of Moher Co. Clare
www.cliffsofmoher.ie
          The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction with a magical vista that captures the hearts of up to one million visitors every year. Standing 702 feet at their highest point they stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Pensinula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years.
         I spent about an hour just wandering around. The parking ticket was around 8 Euros. The drive from Galway is long. It took me the whole day and also cut time off by using the Ferry. So if you want to spend more time at the Cliffs than you may want to break the trip up. We were told that the Cliffs were not as big an event as most people thought and I agree. I am glad that we did not budget tons of time toward the Cliffs and spent it doing other things. There is a ferry service that was closer to Dingle and I really enjoyed it. It was a suggestion by Ger before I left Ireland and it turned out to be great. You may want to ask on the Helpline about that ferry. Beautiful sights and easy to get on, leaves every hour and cuts a couple hours off your drive.

10. Aran Island
(By Rick Steve’s in Rick Steven’s Europe) http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/ireland/aranisla.htm
       The Aran Islands, along Ireland's west coast, are a Gaelic treat. They consist of three limestone islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer. The largest, Inishmore (9 miles by 2 miles), is by far the most populated, interesting, and visited. The other islands, Inishmaan and Inisheer, are smaller, much less populated, and less touristy. While extremely quiet, they also have B&Bs, daily flights, and ferry service. For most, the big island is quiet enough.
        The landscape of all three islands is harsh: steep, rugged cliffs and windswept, rocky fields divided by stone walls. During the winter, severe gales sweep the islands; because of this, most of the settlements on Inishmore are found on its more peaceful eastern side.
There's a stark beauty about these islands and the simple lives its inhabitants eke out of six inches of topsoil and a mean sea. Precious little of the land is productive. In the past, people made a precarious living from fishing and farming. The scoured bedrock offered little in the way of soil for farming, so it was created by the islanders — the result of centuries of layering seaweed with sand. The fields are small, divided by several thousand miles of "drystone" wall (made without mortar). Most of these are built in the Aran "gap" style, in which angled upright stones are filled with smaller stones. This allows a farmer who wants to move stock to dismantle and rebuild the walls easily.
          Nowadays, tourism boosts the local economy. The 800 residents of Inishmore (literally "the big island") greet as many as 2,000 visitors a day. The vast majority of these are day-trippers. They'll hop on a minibus at the dock for a 2.5-hour tour to Dún Aenghus (the must-see Iron Age fort), then spend an hour or two browsing through the few shops or sitting at a picnic table outside a pub with a pint of Guinness.
For a closer look, consider spending the night. As in Dingle, people on Inishmore rent rooms inexpensively. Rent a bike or hire a horse and buggy, and explore. Like the rest of Ireland, the Aran Islands have a deep and mysterious history. The islands are a Gaeltacht area. While the islanders speak Irish among themselves, they happily speak English for their visitors. Many of them have direct, personal connections with America and will ask you if you know their cousin Paddy in Boston.
Inishmore's famous Iron Age fortress, Dún Aenghus, is the most impressive of its kind in all of Europe. For 20 centuries, angry waves have battered away at its black foundation, 300 feet straight down. Even with nothing to guard, it still stands strong, overlooking the sea from a cliff-edge perch. While Inishmore's residents are outnumbered by day-tripping tourists on some summer days, if you arrive early or late, you can be completely alone in Dún Aenghus. Spread-eagled on the slate, beak in the wind, gawking straight down at the point where Europe crashes like an egg into the Atlantic — you become part bird.
        Getting to the Aran Islands: 
        1. By ferry from Rossaveel and Galway:  Ferries sail to Inishmore from Rossaveel, a port 20 miles west of Galway. The company sells tickets at the Galway TI and runs a 45-minute shuttle bus from Galway to the Rossaveel dock (40-minute crossing, WCs on board). Shuttle buses depart Galway one hour before the sailing and return to Galway immediately after each boat arrives. Island Ferries has two offices in Galway: across from Kinlay House on Merchants Road, and on Forster Street near the Park House Hotel. Tickets are also sold at the TIs in Galway and Salthill. Drivers should go straight to the ferry landing in Rossaveel, passing several ticket agencies and pay parking lots. At the boat dock, you'll find a convenient pay lot and a small office selling tickets for Island Ferries. Check to see what's going when and for how much.
         2. By Ferry from Doolin: Boats from Doolin to the Aran Islands can be handy, but they are often canceled or run late. Even a balmy day can be too windy (or the tide can be too low) to allow for a sailing from Doolin's crude little port. If you're traveling under tight time limits, don't risk sailing from Doolin. Two ferry companies in Doolin have similar schedules and compete hard for your business. Although they all promise to get you to Inishmore in under an hour, every one of my trips in the past few years has included a stop on Inisheer en route, making the actual crossing time about 1.5 hours.
         3. By Plane:  Aer Arann Islands, a friendly and flexible little airline, flies daily, stopping at all three islands. These flights get booked up — reserve a day or two in advance with a credit card. Their nine-seat planes take off from the Connemara Regional Airport (not the Galway airport). It's 20 slow driving miles west of Galway, so allow a solid 45 minutes to get there, plus 30 minutes to check in before the scheduled departure. A minibus shuttle runs from Galway an hour before each flight.

WHAT ELSE :
          Limerick city center is divided between the traditional areas of "English Town" on the southern end of King's Island, which includes the King John's Castle; "Irish Town", which includes the older streets on the south bank; and the current economic center further south, called "Newtown Pery". Newtown Pery was built in the late 18th century before the Act of Union and, unusually for an Irish city and unique in Limerick, is laid out on a grid plan. The Limerick City Museum (formerly aka the Jim Kemmy Municipal Museum), is next to King John's Castle. It contains displays on Limerick's history and manufactures.
           The main park in Limerick is the People's Park which was opened in 1877 in memory of Richard Russell, a prominent local business man. The park is dominated by the Thomas Spring Rice memorial (MP for the city 1820-1832) and has a large collection of mature deciduous and evergreen trees.
          Currently tourism is growing, with over 1,000 new beds being opened in the city in 2006 thanks to the opening of five new hotels. The city provides visitors with "Street Ambassadors", people designated to help others around and make their stay more enjoyable. Limerick City has a vibrant nightlife, with numerous nightclubs and pubssuch giving a range of drinking experiences from the warm and cosy to cutting edge. Dolan's Warehouse is a popular small concert venue that hosts many local, national and international folk, indie, jazz and rock acts. It is also an established venue for traditional Irish music.
          In County Limerick, the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, approximately 35 km from Limerick City along the scenic coastal N69 route from Limerick to Tralee, is also popular attraction.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS:
1. Limerick is known to be the antipodes to the Campbell Islands of New Zealand.
2. St John's Cathedral has Ireland's tallest church spire.

PICTURES CAPTURED DURING THIS TRIP (MAY 2013):
Waiting for my next flight to Limerick on an Aer Lingus, the national carrier of Ireland, in London Heathrow.
My plane was finally here. It was a nice silver and green livery Airbus A330 that will take me from Heathrow to Shannon. 
Advertisement on Cliffs of Moher at London Heathrow airport, a popular site north of Limerick with spectacular sights of sheer cliffs drop off to the sea, with seagulls flying and nesting on the cliff, not to be missed by tourists.
Jerseys upon jerseys of famous rugby players of Ireland adorned the wall n Strand Hotel. After all it is the most famous game in town.

Mr. Wolf posed beside picture of renowned subject that he claimed "looks like him". There is indeed some resemblance all right.
Waiting for my order of dinner, a fish and chips combo cooked in beer flavored batter, at The Locke Bar. The menu was all written on the board, basically what was caught on that day.
The Locked Bar restaurant in Limerick looks like any other Irish restaurant  but the food and beer here are great plus the live band was good.
A fisherman clubhouse by Shannon river. Not much detailed was written about this club house but it sure looks old.
The Strand Limerick Hotel. It boasted to have the "Best Views in Limerick" from it top of 7th floor, overlooking Shannon River.
A customer, an Englishman named Mr. Betteridge, had his fills of fresh fruits for breakfast.
Bacon with blood sausage anyone? Also called Drisheen, the sausage is an Irish blood sausage similar to English black pudding. The taste - definitely an acquired taste. I did not went for a second helping.
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We visited University of Limerick's Kemmy Business School where my company is a major contributor to the school in terms of grants, students, lectures and real live test cases for their master students.
Tom gave a lecture in University Limerick on globalization. It created a lot of excitement and debate on what to consider on the what, when, how and where. 
My wonderful chicken chop meal in University of Limerick's White House restaurant. The chicken steak was tender and garnished with crunchy cucumber, carrot and topped with potato whip. It was nice.
Pictured here was me with University of Limerick's chancellor at my right, and his staffs. He hosted the lunch for us at UL's White house restaurant.
View of St. Mary cathedral across River Shannon. It nestled among some modern buildings that make it stand out.
Hunts Museum housed one of Ireland's greatest private collections of art and antiquities, dating from the Neolithic to the 20th Century, including works by Renoir, Picasso and Yeats.
St. Mary' cathedral's welcoming billboard gave some brief description of the place origin. This place is also a cemetery ground with tombstones within the compound. Eerie.
St. Mary cathedral minaret tower up close and personal. This 11th century cathedral is old and majestic, and believe it or not, it is still in daily use today!
My order of seafood curry and Jasmine rice at Bambu Restaurant, an Indian Thai restaurant. It looks yummy but I made a blunder by ordering the highest degree of spiciness. It ended burnt my tongue and rendered the meal tasteless as my taste buds were are numbed.
Lost of direction? Signboards are everywhere, written in English and Irish. Still could not find the way - Tourist Office will be your last resort. Hope it is still opens though.