Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ireland For REAL!!

April was a bit busy ... Ireland ... then we were in Kanab for Jeff's sweet grandmother's funeral, and then I traveled two more times for work. And somehow May has just gotten away from me! But I really, really wanted to share all about our trip ... so here goes!!

Day 1: Wow ... talk about a long plane ride! We lucked out and were the last people assigned to seats (weird), and so we sat in the seats the stewardesses normally get on international flights. We had feet rests and everything! We sat next to an Irishman ... it was really funny to watch him talk to Jeff. Jeff clearly couldn't understand a word he was saying :)!

Day 2: We land in DUBLIN! . And check out our freakishly small-drive-on-the-opposite-side-of-the-road-and-car rental car. It was a bit scary (please keep in mind we were in Dublin ... their largest city). Every time Jeff went to signal he turned on the windshield wipers :)!

Here is the car we spent a LOT of time in:
Puny huh?!

Off to check in to the Clontarf Castle Hotel. It was pretty cool! There were authentic Viking castle remains that they built onto to become a hotel. This day we just walked around Dublin and saw a bit of the city. It's a pretty typical big city!

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Day 3: Dublin part 2. Today we went to see Malahide Castle ... a restored castle from around the Viking period. It was SO cool. It was set on 100 acres of green pastures and was just so beautiful. We weren't allowed to take pictures ... so you'll have to settle for some of the outside.
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Then we went back down town and checked out Christ Church Cathedral. It was in the part of Dublin actually called "Viking Dublin" Isn't it beautiful?!
Then ... just because we are tourists we HAD to visit Temple Bar. It wasn't super exciting for us ... could have been because the bar scene isn't so much our thing. By this time Jeff was MUCH better at the whole driving thing ... and bonus we got to experience Dublin traffic!

Day 4: Leaving big-city Dublin in favor of the countryside. It was just so beautiful! Pictures just don't do it justice. On our way we stopped at Kilkenny Castle. Huge! Beautiful ... and imposing!

Then we went to the Rock of Cashel. These are the oldest ruins in Ireland. It began as a fortress and later became a center for the Christian church. It was up high on a hill and had an amazing view.
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Then we came into the town we would be staying at ... it just took your breath away because it is a bay-town. So beautiful!!
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Day 5: By now we had already decided we were very much in love with the Irish countryside - and who wouldn't be?! This time, the nice lady who ran the B&B gave us some ideas for sights to see. First we stopped at the Bantry house. It was so cool - right out of an Austen novel (I was in the middle of reading Persuasian, so I really loved it!) The gardens were really cool, and people still live in the house. It was a self-guided tour ... so even though we weren't supposed to take pictures we did!
Then we were following our trusty GPS (seriously, best investment ever), and she led us up this little mountain "road." It was SO narrow - but we decided to go with it. In her effort to take us the shortest route, we went over the mountain. We got charged by a cow, and then got out where we didn't see anyone for ages. Finally we passed three men on mopeds putting a long. We were laughing so hard about the whole experience ... then Jeff decided Mother Nature was calling. So I got out to take a picture of the countryside ... and the mopeders PASSED us while Jeff was um, "standing outside." I really thought I would die laughing. Who would have thought they could catch up to us?! They ended up stopping at the top ... and even took our picture!
That evening we went through Kerry National Park. It is very famous ... but most of it wasn't as pretty as the normal country-side. However, as part of it there is the most incredible estate home, gardens, waterfall and lake. We loved it so much we went back a few times! That night we walked out to Torc Waterfall ... beautiful!
We stayed in Kenmare that night. The B&B was less than stellar, so we decided to cut our stay from 2 nights to 1. The town, however, is known for their lace. It was so pretty. We also learned that is what helped pull them out of the famine - making and selling their lace. Interesting huh?!

Day 6: Ring of Kerry. It is beautiful country - you get to see the rocky shores and the green fields, but it wasn't anything more beautiful that what we experienced just driving around.

We really wanted to make the Muckross House tour (which was the estate home at Kerry National Park). The day before we noticed that the last tour of the day was at 4:20, and we were running late because we were trying to get some laundry done (totally sketchy) We got there at a quarter after 4 and ran up to the ticket desk to buy tickets only to discover ... they changed the last tour to 4!!!

Day 7: The next morning, we were determined to make a tour at the Muckross House. We thought they only took cash (which was pretty typical for most places). So we were rushing around trying desperately to find an ATM to make it early - just in case they changed the tour time again, when Jeff suggested we just go and take our chances(remember this is attempt number 3). The tour was supposed to start at 10:30, and we ran up at 10:31 only to discover they had changed the time to 11 ... AND after all that effort ... they took credit card!! Luckily it was SO worth it. The house was beautiful - full of history and original furniture, drapes, etc. Queen Victoria and her husband Alfred actually came for a visit a few years after the home was built. Several pieces of furniture were made just for her visit. We got to see the actual room she stayed in! Then we saw the servants quarters ... man, life would have been hard doing that!
That night we stayed at the Lakeside Country Lodge. It was the first really cold, rainy day we had. After dinner we snuggled on their couch and watched the rain on the huge lake behind us. It was such an idyllic location.
Day 8: We started the day shopping in Ennis (the cute town we were staying in). We purchased our first souvoneirs (for us ... up to this point we bought something for everyone else). I got a Celtic symbol necklace (handmade) and Jeff got an "Irish History Ring" made by the same designer.

Then we drove to Doolin by the Cliffs of Mohr. We took a 1 hour boat cruise out to see the Cliffs. They were stunning - huge and majestic. There were these unique birds flying all around them, and the sun shone so brilliantly I could hardly believe how beautiful it all was. It's a good thing they were so amazing because the boat ride back was miserable! The water (their version of calm) was so rough, the boat small, and people getting seasick everywhere!
Once we got our land-legs back, we headed out to the Bunratty Folk Park. Around an ancient castle, they have re-created a park full of different houses through the ages, and in different locations around Ireland. It was really cool to see the different types of dwellings people lived in.

That night ... our last (sigh!) ... we decided to go out in true Midevil style. We went to a late-night banquet held at the Bunratty Castle. The hosts were dressed in authentic attire, we were only given "daggers" (knives) to eat with and served in the banquet hall. The waiters and waitresses doubled as our entertainment for the evening - singing and making jokes. It was so fun ... and the perfect way to end a wonderful trip!
We were sad to leave because we enjoyed it so much! But at the same time glad to be home! We have so many more pictures ... and none of them even do justice to the beauty! I will take the time to put together some "landscape" pics in a smilebox ... so look forward to that!!