Did you know that in order to kiss the Blarney Stone you have to hang upside down like a bat? Well, not exactly. The bit of ancient brick, that when bussed is supposed to grant the "gift of gab," is situated in a castle wall so that you must lie down on your back and bend your neck and head backward into a gaping opening in order to make contact.
Although a bit harrowing, the activity will surely be one of the most memorable
experiences that any traveler will ever log. And unlike the hike to the castle’s
top, getting to the Blarney area (or anywhere in Ireland) is a piece of cake thanks
to the great railway system accessible with a Eurail Pass.
Europe has a phenomenal rail system and dozens of countries there honor the Eurail
Pass, the simplest, most economical way to get virtually anywhere on the continent.
The pass can be purchased in the U.S. before you head overseas, so when you get
there you just need a map (or not!) and a train timetable.
To test out the pass, I picked two countries I wanted to explore, Ireland and
France, and decided to begin the adventure in Ireland. Aer Lingus is the preferred
airline to Dublin and has direct flights departing from Los Angeles. The flight
is long but the Aer Lingus planes are very comfortable and you can slap on a pair
of headphones and listen to traditional Irish music as you drift into dreams of
a Dublin pub and a frosty mug of Guinness.
The train makes anywhere in Ireland a day trip, so I parked the suitcase at the
Davenport Hotel in downtown for three days and headed out each morning by rail.
Of course there is a ton of stuff to do in Dublin, and a great deal of it is within
walking distance of the downtown area.
Amongst the shopping and business areas you’ll find the house where Dracula
author Bram Stoker once lived, the hotel owned by Irish superstars U2, the Guinness
brewery and countless little pubs that come alive every evening. If you are of
Irish heritage and want to look up your ancestors, every local knows where to
Anxious to ride the train, I found a station a few blocks from the Davenport and
took a short ride out to nearby Howth. The village sits right on the coastline
and proved the perfect place to watch the sun set on the Irish Sea and eat a dinner
that had only hours before been living in those chilly waters.
This train ride, like all connections within the same urban area, costs a nominal
amount and is not part of what the Eurail Pass covers. The Eurail Pass is for
travel between cities, and tomorrow I’ll put it to use!
The first train for Cork leaves early in the morning. A flash of the Eurail Pass
at the station gets your ticket in hand and also your seat assignment – as
all long distance trains use this arrangement. There is nothing quite like watching
the peaceful countryside fly by while chowing down on a full Irish breakfast –
bacon, egg, bread, coffee and something for the brave of heart – Irish pudding
(It’s made from cow guts.).
Cork is clear across the country from Dublin, but the train has you there in a
few hours. The historic city is best seen on foot and you can easily do this on
your own or with a tour guide. Like most of Europe, Cork has an architectural
flare to its modern and ancient buildings that there is nothing like in the U.S.
Cork is also the gateway to nearby Blarney and the infamous Blarney Stone. These
are good places to buy souvenirs if your taste runs to linens or handcrafts; you
can buy your Irish whiskey and fudge pretty much anywhere. After a full day in
the area, the convenience of the Eurail Pass becomes very evident as you simply
hop on the last train back to Dublin. Just repeat the process to arrive anywhere
Now, on to France. The train doesn’t go there, but your Eurail Pass does!
The Irish Ferries system is the way to use your Eurail Pass to get from Ireland
to the mainland. Take the train to Rosslare on the southeast coast of Ireland
and catch the overnight ferry to Cherbourg, France. You’ll need a bit of
advance planning for this as the ferry only runs on certain days at certain times
of the year.
The Eurail Pass is good for a discount on your passage, which takes about 17 hours.
You can rent a sleeping room or not – there is plenty to do on the ferry
such as live music, bars, a casino and a shopping center. Once landed in Cherbourg,
Europe is your oyster!
This time base camp was to be Paris – what a wonderful place to return to
each evening after a day of exploring France. The Gare de Lyon station in Paris
is the Eurail departure point for places like Avignon to the south, a place you
can get to in two hours thanks to the luxurious, high-speed TGV train. Besides
being fast, the TGV is a double-decker train and riding up top affords the best
view of the French countryside.
Amazingly, all the train rides I took were right on time, right to the minute.
So make sure you always have a train schedule with you because they are not going
to be running late and waiting around for you. Oh, and one last thing. You won’t
want to come home but you’ll probably have to so make sure that your Aer
Lingus ticket is round trip!
For more information, visit www.eurail.com and www.aerlingus.com.
Culture: Travel [Europe By Train]
Europe By Train: Eurial Makes Tracks to the Emerald Isle
By Kevin Wierzbicki
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Article posted on 3/13/2006
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