Donegal- Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle is a fine structure built along the graceful River Eske in Donegal town, Ireland.  Originally a stronghold of the O'Donnell's, it was captured by the British, but is now back in the fold of the Irish.

My favorite room in the castle is the great hall.  Just imagine the minstrels singing, the guests laughing, the mead flowing, the pigs roasting on the spits, and a raging fire in the fireplace.  Ummm...so these it seems are the trappings of royalty!

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Ardara- Sheila's Coffee and Cream, Eddie Doherty's Handwoven Tweeds, Nancy's Pub

Ardara is a delightful little town in County Donegal, Ireland known for its beauty, festivals, and tweed.

On my visit, I first stopped at Sheila's Coffee and Cream(Main Street) for a breakfast of freshly scrambled eggs and delicious brown bread!

Thusly fortified, I made my way to Eddie Doherty's Handwoven Tweeds(Front Street) where I perused Eddie's colorful collection of caps, blankets, and scarves.  Heck, you can even see the man himself working away at his loom!

But the icing on the cake was a wee bit down the road at Nancy's Pub(Front Street), a homey place if ever there was one, with its antique brass jugs on the wall, eccentric mugs hanging above the bar, and coal fire in the fireplace.  Perfect place to nurse an Irish coffee while you attempt to beat the locals on quizz night!

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Enniskillen- Bush Bar and Lounge, Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen Castle

On my first trip to Ireland, I had time for a brief excursion into the North.  Namely, the town of Enniskillen.

Bush Bar and Lounge(26 Townhall Street) was my first stop for a burger, fries, and coke.  This gave me the fuel for the days diversions.

I was then pulled in the direction of Blakes of the Hollow(6 Church Street), an incredible pub with an excellent barkeep who gave me the grand tour of the premises.  Dark brown wood, huge wine casks, antique lighting fixtures, Victorian tilework.  The works.  It was indeed a gin palace straight from the pages of Poe's "Man of the Crowd."  Excellent place to slake a pint of Guiness!

Then on to the impressive Enniskillen Castle(Wellington Road), built of stone alongside a raging river.  Stronghold of the Maguires for hundreds of years, it was a place known for its hospitality, lively banquets, and skilled musicians.  And if you're thinking about storming its keep, think again.  They also have quite a collection of battle axes!  

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County Meath- Newgrange, Trim Castle, Hill of Tara

Newgrange is an impressive circular structure of stone and earth that holds sway over the Boyne Valley in Ireland.  It was built thousands of years ago, and was used for religious purposes.

When visiting inside of the structure, though, watch your head, because it definitely wasn't built for tall people!

Flash forward a few thousand years, and you come upon the atmospheric Trim Castle, which was built by the the Anglo-Normans in order to control the native Irish that they had recently conquered.

I'm sure that the Irish hated the place(no surprise) when it was built, but as a visitor, it will take you back to a romantic world of brave knights and their fair maids!

And don't forget about the Hill of Tara, which was the seat of the high kings of Ireland, and a major stopping point for Saint Patrick on his road to converting the Irish to Christianity.

In essense, a more Irish place there isn't! 

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Eugene- Morning Glory Cafe, Perugino Cafe

If you're looking for a great breakfast spot in Eugene, check out the Morning Glory Cafe(450 Willamette Street).  The place is covered with art both inside and out, and is packed with chatty locals.  And when the waiter asks for your order, tell him you'd like the refreshing hibiscus tea and the excellent cinnamon french toast with blueberry apple compote!

Then head for the atmospheric Perugino Cafe(767 Willamette Street #102).  Located in a beautifully preserved old building with brick walls and Renaissance prints, it's the perfect place to enjoy a dark chocolate mocha!

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