Friday, September 14, 2012



          How can you visit the County of Cork and not take a trip to see the Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone?  I guess that would be the same as living in Arizona and never seeing the Grand Canyon.  Wait, I have done that!  Since I was getting my trip to the Cobh Heritage Center, the least I could do was go with my husband to the Blarney Castle so that he could kiss the Blarney Stone.

          The walk to the actual castle from where we parked was beautiful.  There was a river, bridge, beautiful trees and plants and green everywhere you look (well, I guess that is Ireland in general!).  Then my husband somehow convinced me to explore Badger Cave under the castle.  What was I thinking?  It was dark, rainy and muddy?  Then every few minutes he snapped a photo which caused me to become temporarily blinded!  Okay, enough of the caves and mud on my new jeans! And I didn’t find any special passage to Cork either!

          So, let’s actually see the famous Blarney Castle.  The castle sits directly on a cliff of rock which formed the quarry for building the castle.  The walls slope gradually inwards.  The staircase is steep and winding, but the views at the top are spectacular. 

          My husband did kiss the Blarney Stone so now I guess he has the “gift of gab”.  Actually I think it will just reinforce the 2% truth rule, which I now renamed the Blarney Rule!  I personally did not kiss the stone but I did partake in almost every other Irish tradition.

          With having only one full day in County Cork, we were going to make the most of it -- Blarney Castle – done!   Cobh Heritage Center – done!  I guess the only thing left is to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Midleton.  Well, the first thing you have to love at Jameson’s is that they believe in recycling.  Look at this great chandelier.  Wonder if we can get one shipped home!

          The tour at Jameson’s was very informative!  Irish whiskey is triple distilled while Scottish whiskey is distilled twice and American whiskey only once.  This makes Irish whiskey very smooth.  It also doesn’t have that smoky flavor of Scottish whiskey.  At the end of the tour, I rang the bell!  I think it means it time for a drink!   My husband was selected to participate in the taste test.  So, I kept myself busy drinking my glass of Jameson talking to an older Irish couple.  Wow, I’m feeling very Irish now -- much more than just my ¼ heritage!  Jameson and ginger ale, anyone?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


    Since most of our trip to Ireland would be on a tour, it means we would be staying in hotels.  So, we jumped at the idea of trying a bed and breakfast while we were on own in the city of Cork for a few days. After researching some bed and breakfasts online, we selected the Garnish House in Cork.

          Upon our arrival at 11am to the Garnish House, we were told our room wasn’t quite ready but that we could have a seat in their cute sitting room.  A few moments later, a young lady brought us a teapot, two teacups and a plate full of delicious homemade pastries.  I need the recipe for that tasty moist cake with the chocolate icing!  Five minutes later our room was ready, but it could wait until our tummies were full from those pastries.  No need for lunch now – I think it is nap time!

          The next morning we came down to the dining room for our much anticipated breakfast.  Now, I had read that this place served the best breakfast in Cork, but that was definitely an understatement!  After we were shown to our table, a basket of toasts and pastries, along with jellies, jams and honey was delivered to our table. There was a buffet of all kinds of juices, yogurt, granola and fruit salad.  The waitress asked me if I would like porridge for my starter.  Why not?  She then proceeded to ask me, do I want with honey and cream, Bailey’s Irish Cream or Irish whiskey.  Bailey’s was my answer!  Who knew porridge could taste so yummy?  I am sure Goldilocks didn’t have it this good! 

          But the porridge was only the starter course; there is a menu of various types of scrambled eggs, omelets and Irish breakfasts for your main course.  It wasn’t until the second day that I realized there was another side to the menu.  Yes, they also offered pancakes and French toast and other yummy stuff.  So, on the 2nd day I selected the cinnamon French toast with the warm spiced grapefruit. Can I just stay at the breakfast table all day long?  Now, I am totally stuffed and guess what happens?  The lovely waitress wants to know if I want pound cake for dessert.  Yeah, that would probably be amazing (dessert for breakfast definitely is) but I think I would explode so I will have to refuse it.

       After eating breakfast on the third day (since that was also the day we were leaving Cork) we needed to say goodbye to our wonderful Garnish House hostess/manager.  Do you know what she said to my husband and me?  “I only wish I could have done more for you.”   Wow!  My reply to her was “can I bring you home with us?”

          I can tell you unequivocally that I have never had this type of service at a hotel.  I definitely would give up the swimming pool, spa, room service (I’m betting we probably could have gotten that here too) and elaborate lobby for the amazing service and hospitality of this lovely Irish bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


         My great grandmother Bridget Chambers immigrated to the US from Ireland in 1885.  She left with her older brother Charles.  Her older siblings Patrick, Michael and Marie had immigrated a few years before and were living in Chicago, Illinois.  Bridget’s future husband (my great grandfather) Edward Sherlock boarded a ship in Queenstown, Ireland for his new life in America in 1891. How he ended up in Chicago when the rest of his siblings who came to America stayed in Boston is a mystery that I still need to solve.

          Visiting the Cobh Heritage Center was on the top of my list of places to visit on my trip to Ireland. It would be my one attempt at a genealogical activity while I was in Ireland (or so I thought).  While we were in Cobh, my husband (the avid photographer) took as many photos as he could while I read all the signs at the exhibits and imagined “walking in my great grandparents’ footsteps”. 

          I imagined how it would feel to have your family throw a 3-day wake party since in their minds the likelihood was that they would never see you again, even if you did make it safely to America.  So, your boarding the ship in Queenstown (now known as Cobh) was like a death in the family.   During the earlier years (in the mid-1850’s and later) they even called the ships, “coffin ships” since so many passengers died.

          I imagined how it would feel to be a passenger in steerage and only have the opportunity to see daylight for a half hour a day.  During that time you would also be cooking your own food.  Did weeks under those conditions seem like an eternity and did one second guess their decision to leave their homeland?

          Of course, my trip would not be complete without visiting the famous statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers which is just outside the Cobh Heritage Center. The story is that Annie was the 1st emigrant to be processed at Ellis Island when it opened in 1892.  Annie and her brothers had sailed to America on the SS Nevada, leaving from Queenstown, Ireland.  There is a similar statue on display at Ellis Island (that is definitely on my genealogical bucket list)! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Planning my trip to the Emerald Isle

    To make the most of one’s travelling, I think planning is a must!  I learned this lesson the hard way last year on our family’s Mediterranean cruise.  While I absolutely loved seeing the Coliseum, Vatican City and the Amalfi Coast, we definitely would have had a better experience in Barcelona, Marseille and Mallorca with a little more planning.

          The Mediterranean cruise was also my first trip to Europe and I was exhausted after my flight from the west coast of the US to Barcelona.  All I wanted to do was sleep the day we arrived and the next day.  It turned out to be okay on the cruise since we had a day at sea, but I didn’t think it would work on my Ireland tour.  Perhaps, my husband and I should go to Ireland a few days earlier and get acclimated before the tour started?   We could rent a car and see a part of Ireland that we wouldn’t see on the tour.  What would interest him and yet give me a tiny morsel of reward in my never ending genealogical quest?  So, it was decided we would fly into Dublin, rent a car and he would drive the car with a stick shift on the wrong side of the road to County Cork.  There we could go visit the town of Cobh, where my great grandmother Bridget and my great grandfather Edward left Ireland for their new life in the US.   Okay, now I am getting even more excited about this trip.  

          So, six months prior to my departure for Ireland, I purchased the book “Ireland for Dummies” by Liz Albertson.  I am partial to those “Dummies” book series – they always give you the basics and build from there.  I not only read the book (almost cover to cover) but I also highlighted passages and put tab markers on various pages throughout the book.  I wanted to have access to this information before and during my trip.

          Why stop with reading a guide book?  What else would give me a taste of the Irish culture?  Perhaps, watching some movies based in Ireland might do the trick.  If nothing else,  I would admire the Irish scenery.  First, I watched the movie “Leap Year”, starring Amy Adams.  It was very cute!  I was hoping those same calamities wouldn’t happen to me when I got to Ireland.  I followed that movie with another fun one – “Waking Ned Devine”, which was about winning the lottery and what happens to a small Irish village. 

          I have typed my family history for the Sherlock side and the Chambers side (I might need it on the trip), finished packing my bags with 8 hours to spare (that has never happened before) and actually got about 5 ½ hours of sleep the night before our departure date.   It is now 4:30am and my in-laws are giving us a ride to the airport.  Let my Irish adventure begin … 

The Decision to Go

        I have this intense desire to visit the homelands of my ancestors.  It is as if the countries of Ireland, Germany and Poland are calling me “home”.  It doesn’t matter that I was born in the US, as was my parents and grandparents!  I think on some subconscious level it is my attempt to connect to my great grandparents – to as it were – “to take a walk in their shoes”.  Since I never had the opportunity to meet them, at least maybe I could learn a little bit about them.

          Eighteen months ago, my older brother proposed the idea that my husband and I should join him and his wife on a trip to Ireland.  My brother (as was my Dad) is a big Notre Dame University fan and they had a football game scheduled for Sept. 1st, 2012 in Dublin, Ireland, playing the Naval Academy team.  While my football allegiances lie with my alma mater, the UCLA Bruins, this was an opportunity too great to pass up.  He even sweetened the deal by allowing me to select the itinerary for the trip. 

          I did a bit of research and decided that among the choices – Galway, Claire or Kerry (Belfast was never even in my consideration), that I would select Galway as the 2nd city in our 2 city tour.  You see the trip was a planned tour so while we wouldn’t have to worry about transportation from one place to another or accommodations, it would be limiting in where we could visit.  Neither County Mayo nor County Meath (the birthplaces of my great grandparents) were choices for the tour.  I am guessing that means these aren’t the most favorite tourist spots! 

          However, County Galway is just south of County Mayo so I would be close to my ancestral homeland.  Does this actually count?  Well, at that moment I rationalized just stepping on Irish soil would be enough.  The big bonus to Galway was that I could also see the magnificent Cliffs of Moher.  Now, I do know that the Cliffs are actually in County Claire but they offered tours from Galway.  So after selecting side tours – one to the Cliffs and the Burren and another one in Dublin, I paid my deposit and went on with my daily life for the next 18 months. 

NOTE: The next 10 or so posts will be about my trip to Ireland – the wonderful discoveries, the amazing people and their culture, and a very special surprise side trip that led me to my ancestral “home town”.