Touching Ireland

Warning: Longest blog in the history of forever. Not particularly for assignment purposes. This is for those of you that wanted to hear about my vacation to Ireland with a LOT of pictures!

Pack and plan and part!

As if I hadn’t worn them enough, I put on my big girl panties under my patience pants and planned a vacation.

The e-mail with our WHOLE plan!

The e-mail with our WHOLE plan!

Ok, I didn’t do it all on my own, but this was the closest to “in charge” of a trip this big I’ve ever been. Weeks of an underlying stress trying to make decisions, navigate French computers, coordinate with friends and pay big amounts of money for reservations–all while going to school from 9-5. But now it’s time to go! We had a minor panic having not printed tickets, but our wonderful host dad helped us (changing the printer ink and all!) at 10pm the night before.  I’m super excited and super hoping I don’t forget French while we’re gone!

Carina organizing all of our paper work on the first leg - the train to Paris

Carina organizing all of our paper work on the first leg – the train to Paris

Carina and I got up and organized, grabbed breakfast and met up with Erin. We discussed how none of us had really traveled on our own with just friends before. This thought combined with day one of our adventure led to the inability to sit still or suppress squeals of excitement at random moments.

Erin and I squealing with excitement on the train!

Erin and I squealing with excitement on the train!

It’s a good feeling though, the previous day was sad. Last day of September classes was just a party. My perfectly French professor brought a typical, homemade French dessert to share and we watched a French comedy.

My prof and classmates!

My prof and classmates!

Shortly after, we had to bid farewell to Brittany who was going back to the States for school.  I was really sad.

Goodbye!

Goodbye!

It was weird without her, I hadn’t known Angers without Brittany for more than a few loney hours, and I’d grown to really enjoy her company and looked forward to chatting about our day each evening. I can just hope our new roommate is just as fun because for now “our trio’s down to twoooo!”.

Our trio....

Our trio….

...down to twoooo!

…down to twoooo!

That evening held last minute packing and “Le Soiree International” in which each country performed something that represented their culture and it was a good closure to the month. There will be lots of changes come October and a nice long break in the mean time!

Our trip to Dublin, was success after success. Well kind of. We arrived in Dublin smoothly and as planned, but after that, things got a little messy. I am SO proud of us for navigating 12 or so connections with no major mess ups! As they say in France “Youpiii!”
Summary:
Walk to tram(8am). Tram to train station. Train to Paris. Take the Metro. Take another subway. Walk to bus stop (*buy a crepe from crazy man wanting to practice English).   Bus to airport.

Out the front window of the bus on the way to the airport!

Out the front window of the bus on the way to the airport!

Fly to Dublin.

Squealing in excitement on the plane!

Squealing in excitement on the plane!

Talk with helpful woman at info desk (who speaks English!) about options and make plan.

Our first encounter with how nice the Irish are!

Our first encounter with how nice the Irish are!

Bus to train station.

Upstairs of the bus! I felt like I was driving! (Good thing I wasn't)

Upstairs of the bus! I felt like I was driving! (Good thing I wasn’t)

Run. Miss train by 2 MINUTES. No more trains. Wait what? Can’t get to Ennis (town with hostel reservation) until tomorrow…………Bother info guy a lot. Find train to nearby town. Wait and get free food. Take train to random connection.

And the snack trolley went by....I wanted to offer to "take the lot!" but I had no gold galleons.

And the snack trolley went by….I wanted to offer to “take the lot!” but I had no gold galleons.

Take another train and arrive in Limerick. Talk to security man about busses. Assured that there will be one soon. Wait at bus stop. Security man says never mind, no more busses tonight. Panic. Told again there is a bus in about 2 hours (at 11:30pm). Go to local old person bar, play cards and have hot drink.Wait in rain at bus stop (and do ballet to stay warm) and get questioned about the reliability of our information. Bus comes – cheer! Dumped off in Shannon. Wait some more. Another bus comes and takes us to Ennis. Very nice driver drops us off at Hostel. Nice hostel desk person still there to check us in at about 1am. SLEEP.

Great Hostel experience number 1

Great Hostel experience number 1

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Hehe.

Hehe. “Ireland. Waiting for a bus”

“What you’re leaving behind – your footprints. What you’re taking with you- your memories.” – Frank the tour guide. (And probably someone famous originally).

The next day, as if nothing had happened, we got up and had breakfast and bought some local candy while crossing our fingers that the tour bus pick up time according to the hostel front desk and different from the e-mail, was correct. It was! From here on out, this was my favorite day. I think I spend most of the bus ride hovering 2 inches above the seat because I was so excited, sitting was literally impossible.  I clung to every fun fact the driver told us and tried not to blink as I looked out the window. If it’s not clear yet how happy I was, my cheeks were already sore from smiling.

Proof.

Proof.

On our way to the first stop, I learned that Ennis is a really great place to do genealogy research. We also stopped at a castle (well I guess it was just a powerful woman’s house) that was built half in 1480 and added on to in 16 something. It has since decayed a bit and the crows flying around seemed fitting for photos.

You can't really see the crows...

You can’t really see the crows…

If you look close you can see a cross in the wall that was build in the 11th century!

If you look close you can see a cross in the wall that was build in the 11th century!

Moving on, we came to a bizarre rocky landscape where we hopped around and looked at plants growing between rocks and gazed upon a strange old tomb.

This is where we used some of the pent up energy and bounced around.

This is where we used some of the pent up energy and bounced around.

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Just as it began to pour rain, we got back on the bus to go have a hot meal on the bay. I enjoyed some bangers and mash- kids’ portion-and barely finished it.

YUM.

YUM.

And this was the view!

And this was the view!

Next stop was a little farm where I had some soda bread and we could chose which activity to do. We decided to go to the presentation about herding sheep to see the dogs in action!

Action shot.

Action shot.

This was fitting considering there are about 4.5 million people that populate Ireland and there are about 4.8 million sheep. The dogs are incredibly smart. They know their own whistle sound and what to do on each signal. I was thoroughly impressed.

(Swap that actually, sorry, sheep dogs came before the lunch stop.)

Back in the warmth of the bus, we drove past the most beautiful coast line I’ve ever seen. As a treat, our guide pulled over and let us stretch our legs at a part of the cliff that was accessible. It was absolutely incredible. We each had an adrenaline rush as we dangled our feet over the crashing waves so far below.  It was wonderful to be able to go all the way to the edge even though it felt like the wind would blow us right over. Nature is cool.

Amazing. After standing in the wind I dangled my feet over the depths below. And yes, it was a little unsettling.

Amazing. After standing in the wind I dangled my feet over the depths below. And yes, it was a little unsettling.

The finals stop was the actual Cliffs of Moher, the edge of the world.

I still don't believe I took these pictures.

I still don’t believe I took these pictures.

I’m convinced that the air here was spiked or something because we were giddy. I’m not sure I successfully shut my mouth the entire time I stared out at the steep jagged shore. Because this was a tourist location and a national pride, there were walls up for our safety which made me more thankful we had pulled over and had a raw experience before. At the hobbit hole visitor center we watched a huge video and read about the history and formation.

Hobbits right?

Hobbits right?

The sun wasn’t at the best height for pictures at the time we were here, so I bought a post card.

This was my permanent face.

This was my permanent face.

I wish I knew how to post the videos I took.

I wish I knew how to post the videos I took.

The evening was as perfect as the day. We found a pub with live music and a chatty local that was easily amused. Then we went to another quiet pub with a live traditional band and a friendly musician.

The musicians!

The musicians!

Here the police are called the Garda. Garda Síochána na hÉireann, Irish for “Guardians of the Peace of Ireland”. Isn’t that just perfectly Irish?

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This is at a construction site. More proof of how nice the Irish are.

This is at a construction site. More proof of how nice the Irish are.

Though we could have stayed in Ennis longer, we had big plans ahead and caught a bus early the next morning to get to Dingle peninsula by afternoon. We didn’t know Ireland could get better.

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Difficult to photograph from the bus!

Difficult to photograph from the bus!

There were more than 40 shades of green covering the rolling hills and a full, double rainbow to greet us. A double rainbow in Ireland!

You can kind of see it in this picture. I'm not sure where my better picture is.

You can kind of see it in this picture. I’m not sure where my better picture is.

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We almost stopped the bus to search for gold. Alas, this was not a possibility because we had an appointment to go horseback riding. We quickly checked into the hostel and asked for directions to the ranch. Not only did we get directions, but a ride! The hostel owner was leaving shortly to go to his mother’s house for dinner and our next stop was between here and there. We had limited time and appreciated this gesture greatly. Instead of rushing out and walking, we got to have a cup of coffee and ride in a car driving on the opposite side of the road!!!

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Our room!

Our room!

Its backwards....I was SO excited to ride in an Irish car!

Its backwards….I was SO excited to ride in an Irish car!

The actual ride itself seems like a dream. I’m not sure how many times I asked the others to pinch me. The three of us got a private half hour lesson “Irish style” (we learned that what we know of as English saddle is actually originally Irish) and then he took us up the trail, past the house Snow Patrol recorded their first album in, and then to the tip of the peninsula in the raging wind by a tiny ancient stone wall. And then we just sat there, our horses munching happily, listening to fun facts from our guide and observing the dark spots in the ocean that were plankton. We stared at the tides and clouds and blinked a bit to make sure it didn’t all disappear. I think I experienced a slice of heaven.

Getting to know our horses.

Getting to know our horses.

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On the way up the hill

On the way up the hill

Almost to the top...so lucky.

Almost to the top…so lucky.

The ancient wall

The ancient wall at the top!

Our guide and the dark spots.

Our guide and the dark spots.

Snow Patrol's house!

Snow Patrol’s house!

Thanking our horses at the end.

Thanking our horses at the end.

Having no return ride, we walked off our saddle seat and ate blackberries from the side of the road for the whole 45 minutes back to town.
Cold, tired and hungry, we showered and, again, sought live music in a bar.

The musician.

The musician.

Plus, we had gotten a discount on our horse ride so we could “buy a pint tonight!”.

So it was kind of free?

So it was kind of free?

I had a conversation with the bartender that made me question whether we really were speaking the same language. I wanted to order off the kids menu and asked permission to do that, because I didn’t know the norm there. He looked at me as if I were crazy and said it was up to me. So I proceeded and asked what kind of “beans” came on the dish I was interested in. His response, “normal beans”. Normal beans? Uh-huh and what kind of beans are normal? “What color are they?” I asked. “The normal color”. “Great, so like white beans? Green beans? Refried beans?”I was trying to be helpful. Him; “Nooo, no they aren’t white or green, just the normal cooked ones that have ketchup on them”. Ketchup?! “Ok, sure, I’ll have that dish.” And then he walked away without taking my money. So we sat down and anticipated my “normal” beans with baited breath. But I won’t keep you in suspense, they were just your average baked beans, common at Christmas dinners, potlucks or BBQs. And no, they didn’t taste ketchup-y in the slightest.
Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of this.

Esplorin’

We had the morning to kill before departing for the next town. We really wanted to Kayak in the sea caves with the dolphin, but aside from being expensive, we didn’t find out about it in time.

Or swimming with it!

Or swimming with it!

Instead, we went exploring. Someone had recommended the light house to us, so that’s where we went! Turned out to be a tromp through the grass, clovers and mud, against the wind, but the view made every second worth it.

Soo much mud!

Soo much mud!

Clovers!

Clovers!

We happened upon a strange old stone tower and did the most natural thing in response. Climbed it and pretended to be Rapunzel.

And then I brush and brush and brush and brush my hair!

And then I brush and brush and brush and brush my hair!

"Wondering when will my life begin!"

“Wondering when will my life begin!”

The light house was anticlimactic but the view was not.The deep blue waves in the wind and crashing against dark stone created what the Irish refer to as “white horses”. I think we realized at that point, that were feeling really tired simply from feeling so happy all the time.

Light house

Light house

View

View

View with some white horses and travel buddies.

View with some white horses and travel buddies.

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We got to have a lazy afternoon going from Dingle to Cork. We each had our own seat on the bus and spaced out for a while. The hostel in Cork wasn’t far from the train station and it was combined with a bar. After checking in and getting info for the following day we were able to enjoy a rotating program of live musicians.
My alarm clock worked as planned and we took a bus to the famous Blarney Castle.

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Since I don’t need any help when it comes to the number of words I use each day (as evidenced by this blog), we decided to attempt to get the gift of French gab and spoke in French all morning. I guess it was convincing considering the woman at the ticket desk asked if we needed the brochure in a different language. Shortly after, another tourist asked if we could take a picture of her “s’il vous plait”.
The castle itself was cool, of course. I like the castles that are sort of in ruins because they seem more realistic to me. Another great thing was that the info signs were in English, not just English but also clever, witty and interesting to read too.

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Kissing the Blarney Stone at the top was not what I expected. We had to lie down and hang upside down and over all it was rather strange. But, I’m glad to say I partook.

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Now, if the castle was neat, the grounds were incredible! There was a cave to crawl in (where we met another American)

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and a poisonous garden (where I learned a ton about powerful plants!).

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Looking down the garden toward the castle.

Looking down the garden toward the castle.

We spent the entire afternoon wandering around through the enchanted forest, through giant ferns, past mystical waterfalls and trespassing on the territory of ancient druids and witches.
After a hot meal and some gift store browsing, we returned to the hostel, made dinner, explored town a bit and went to bed!

Everything about this place was mystical.

Everything about this place was mystical.

Magical fountain

Magical fountain

We felt like dinosaurs walking through here!

We felt like dinosaurs walking through here!

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We all did this...just in case!

We all did this…just in case!

Other side of the falls

Other side of the falls

Ferns!

Ferns!

Free dinner!

Free dinner!

Evening walk

Evening walk

Marissa J. Thompson

And I, were about to be reunited. I’ve been missing my WOU roommate almost every other second since I left the States, I’m not sure we’ve ever gone this long without seeing each other. Heading back to the capital of Ireland meant seeing her face.
We arrived ahead of her and had time to explore town a bit, accidentally finding popular tourist attractions. But I was distracted by my excitement and when Marissa finally walked through the door I made a scene of running across the lobby to give her a hug.
Happily, we chatted (about random things since too much time had passed to “catch up”) and munched on an unidentifiable type of cuisine before, of course, finding live music, this time with live Irish dancing and some local Jamison!

Reunited :D

Reunited :D

The room we shared with three nice strangers

The room we shared with three nice strangers

The perfect opportunity presented itself for college students at the end of a vacation. A FREE 3 hour walking tour of Dublin led by a local college student! He was a fantastic guide with the perfect mix of factual history and entertaining nuggets or stories. At the end we gave him tips to support his studies and say thank you for the day.  The tour started with a visit to an old important building that President Obama and  Queen Elizabeth had recently been hosted in.

He pointed out that the statue has her back to the public. There was an explanation about the significance of this, but I forgot.

He pointed out that the statue has her back to the public. There was an explanation about the significance of this, but I forgot.

We were lead through Temple Bar and past the memorial of the potato famine, around some churches and through Trinity College. I wish I had taken notes on some of the crazy things we learned about and took pictures of.

The horrifying famine memorial behind out wonderful guide.

The horrifying famine memorial behind out wonderful guide.

Trinity College! (future grad school?)

Trinity College! (future grad school?)

The 4 of us! A little chilly but so happy!

The 4 of us! A little chilly but so happy!

Another example of the Irish people.

Another example of the Irish people.

A church with a unique history.

A church with a unique history.

We later returned to Trinity and had to pay an absurd amount of money to get a glance at the famous book of Kells and walk through the Jedi library. (no photos allowed) This visit was cut rather short as we were running out of time and still wanted to visit the Guinness factory before closing. After asking directions from a nice group of people from Denmark and getting told about the oldest pub in Ireland, we arrived just in time. Unfortunately, we were rushed to the top floor to consume our complimentary pint in the sky bar. I didn’t get to learn as much about the beer or get certified to “pull our own” as we had wanted but at least we found out how to “enjoy beer with all 5 senses” and that the water used comes from the mountains we planned to visit the next day.

They left little shamrock designs in the foam on top!

They left little shamrock designs in the foam on top!

Marissa and I with my pints of Guinness in the Sky Bar! (That's a joke...because she didn't drink much of hers so I helped. I think this is the part where my Dad debates whether or not he is proud!)

Marissa and I with my pints of Guinness in the Sky Bar! (That’s a joke…because she didn’t drink much of hers so I helped. I think this is the part where my Dad debates whether or not he is proud!)

Exhausted from walking all day long we needed some dinner and chocolate milk to keep us going for the last event on our agenda. The Leprechaun museum had an after hours, adult’s only, scary event. We signed our lives away and entered into a room with humongous furniture.

As described, signing my name.

As described, signing my name.

That is 4 of us in one arm chair that took some scrambling to get into!

That is 4 of us in one arm chair that took some scrambling to get into!

Basically there were actors leading us through the museum and telling stories based on old folklore. It wasn’t quite what we expected but interesting anyway.
Needless to say, we slept well that night. It had been a long, long day!

The next day included a full day tour away from Dublin. Having just toured the Guinness factory, I was excited to go to the Wicklow Mountains, the famous beer’s water source. Upon arrival I decided I didn’t want to leave. It was beautiful .

Couldn't look away from this view!

Couldn’t look away from this view!

The tour led us on a little hike through green and more green stopping at some old ruins and ending in an old Monastery.

Green

Green

more green

more green

and more green!

and more green!

And the graveyard.

And the graveyard.

The cool, signature round tour.

The cool, signature round tour.

The Monastery

The Monastery

It was wonderful to have all of the information and history provided as we went, but I didn’t enjoy being in such a big group. It was hard to hear, and we had limited time resulting in a bit of herding.
After spending a moment in the cemetery and admiring the roundness of the lookout tower symbolic of these old towns we bused on over the mountains and through the woods to grandmother’s town of Kilkenny. Well, perhaps, if your grandmother was a witch in the 1700’s. This medieval area had many great stories and evidence of life so long ago. The highlight for me was a restaurant we chose to eat at.  The restaurant was the home of Dame Alice Kyteler who was the earliest person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland. She managed to flee the country but her servant was flogged and burned at the stake in 1324.

Erin and the inside

Erin and the inside

Outside

Outside

The restaurant

The restaurant

And as if it wasn’t interesting enough with the coziest of decorations, only two things made it better. The deliciousness of the food, including a type of sauce I’d never seen before and this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarina's soup.

The end of that day was sad. It meant that my time in Ireland was up and my time with Marissa was over for now. We packed our belongings and printed our “free drink” voucher for the hostel bar (which was a lot more difficult than it should have been). We shared a beer and said goodbyes. I had lost myself in a world of leprechauns and rainbows for a full eight days. I could not have had a more amazing time in the green beauty of Ireland! Erin and Carina, thanks for being great travel buddies and Marissa, thanks for making the effort to meet us in Dublin! I dream of living in the west and marrying a cute young man with an accent and horses. Then we can wear local wool sweaters and tromp through the mud on the cliffs or kayak in the sea caves with the dolphin. In the mean time, I suppose I need to start learning Gaelic.

The candy shop we went to in Dublin. 3 times.

The candy shop we went to in Dublin. 3 times.

The castle we visited on the last day.

The castle we visited on the last day.

To get to the airport in time for our flight we had to get up at 4am. So I set my alarm clock that had worked all week. Now that I have said that, you know what happened. It didn’t go off. Thank goodness Marissa had decided to get up and come a bit early with us, I woke up to her knocking on our door at about the time we were supposed to be leaving in the taxi. Luckily we had packed the night before and managed to get downstairs less than 10 minutes late! The only downsides are that we lost the student rate on the taxi for being late and didn’t get to do the paper work to get our tax money back. At the airport we traded Marissa for Jocelyn who had also been in Ireland, going back to France and regretfully, sleepily, left Ireland.

Our trio!

Our trio!

Emily

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