Saturday, July 18, 2015

the gift of gab!

Today started out with quite an adventure! We are staying in a more typical hotel, and it is quite dark and very quiet when it is time to sleep. So, thinking the alarm was set for 8:20 am, I got up to use the restroom and realized it was 10:35 am!

Fortunately, all we had on the agenda today was exploring the Blarney castle, and we were only taking a city bus to get there, so it wasn't a huge ordeal. Though we did not stop for a lovely breakfast like we have been. That being said, MAN, you could spend all day at the Blarney Castle.

Let me start by saying, the weather today was PERFECT. It was wonderfully comfortable for a light tshirt and some jeans since we were walking, that helped keep us pretty warm. The weather really makes a difference at the castle grounds, because there is so much to see! There are gardens everywhere, gorgeous rose and petunia gardens with plants I've never seen before,  and a very interesting poison garden with plants that are deadly if their leaves are crushed (those plants are surrounded by jungle-gym style covers.

In addition to the gardens, there is the Blarney House manor, which we did not get to go into due to time and desire. However, the Blarney Castle is super cool! The castle has every castle-related thing you could ever hope to see. Amazing dungeons, caves, a lookout tower, and an insanely tiny spiral staircase that leads to the Blarney stone, which is, of course, at the top of the castle. For those of you that don't know, the Blarney stone is said to give the gift of eloquence. Cormac MacDermot McCarthy wanted to keep Ireland seperate from England, but wasn't very good at converstaion. An old woman he met on his journey told him that when the castle was built, a stone was put into place and a man said that no one would ever be able to touch that stone again. The old woman told Cormac if he could kiss the stone, he would become an eloquent speaker, and so a legend was born.

We overheard some people talking about the line wait time, and they said that because it was an hour and a half wait, they weren't going to go kiss the stone, they would go instead to the Wishing Steps (you walk up and down these steps with your eyes closed thinking of nothing but your wish and it supposedly comes true). Drew and I thought that to be crazy because why would you take that over the Blarney Stone? Regardless, I'm glad they left, the line ended up only taking about an hour.

The view from the top of the castle was amazing. And terrifying. Because there are "drains" at the top (by drains, I mean GIANT gaps in between the floor and the wall with maybe two iron rods) the wind at the top of the castle is INTENSE. I've never been in one of those indoor skydiving rooms, but it felt similar to what I imagine that to be like. Well, if that wasn't scary enough, the Blarney Stone is located towards the very bottom of one of those rods! You have to lay on your back, over the top of the castle, completely at an angle where if there wasn't a rod and a man holding your feet you would fall. I will be completley honest, I almost chickened out at the last moment! But I'm glad I didn't, I would have been ashamed.

After we returned to our hotel, we spent some time relaxing, I chatted with my sister and Abuela for a little bit, and then we headed out for some chinese! By the time we were back at the hotel, it started to pour down rain, but we are grateful for that nonetheless!

We are currently packing our things and getting ready to leave this beautiful country tomorrow. England, here we come!


Friday, July 17, 2015

nailed it!

Just wait until all of you fine people hear in person the enormous amount of things I have mispronounced or missaid. It's making for some great stories, but I'd rather save those to tell in person. Hence the "nailed it" title.

I reneged on my promise to blog yesterday, but it turned out to be a long and stressful day, so I just withheld all of the information for today!

Our big activity yesterday was the Gap of Dunloe. The gap is just that, a gap in between a valley of many mountains formed by glacial activity in the Ice Age. In typical, European, four-seasons-in-a-day fashion, our weather was TERRIBLE! At first, it was just overcast and dark, which was perfect because it really brought out the green in the scenery. As we began our jaunting cart (horse and VERY SMALL carriage,) it began to rain, and the wind blew fiercly. I was having a ball, Drew later told me he wasn't a huge fan of the cart ride. We chose not to hike it, which you can do, because we weren't sure of the difficulty or type of hike. Truthfully, it turned out to be relatively flat, but there are a few very windy roads. Shockingly, there were cars driving on this road! Every time a jaunting cart passed, the car had to drive in reverse to get out of the way for the horse to move along. The cart took us all the way up and over the gap, and down to a little cottage where you can have lunch before you catch your boat ride across the 3 lakes. That's right. We also took a very long, very cold, windy boat ride through 3 gorgeous lakes on the other side of the gap, where we shored at Ross Castle. Funnily enough, I did not love the boat ride, Drew told me it was the best part of his day.

I cannot begin to describe in enough detail how amazing and beautiful the Gap of Dunloe was. We struggled between exploring it, or parts of the Ring of Kerry, but we truly do not feel like we made a bad choice. Our weather could have been better, but for me, it just added to the experience. The mountains are enourmous, more peaked, and not covered in trees like ours are. They are covered in different colors and types of moss, making the colors really stand out. There were also sheep, everywhere! Adorable, precious sheep! They were also spray painted on different spots on their rears, I assume to distinguish the flocks and their owners, or the type of wool, but I could be wrong.

After our tour, we made reservations at what we are told was the best restaurant in town, Cronin's. I was feeling a little light heading from the van/horse/boat ride, but I still managed to enjoy what has been our best meal so far. We ordered a grilled pork steak, with tomatoes, chorizo, and melted cheese on top, obviosuly served with salad and....chips! (fries). We also managed to snag in a Bailey's Cheesecake, which was the moussiest, most light cheesecake I've ever tasted.

Today, our day began with our train ride to Cork, which was relatively short, about 45 minutes. We checked into the hotel, which it very nice and again, well located. We walked through the city center for quite some time, enjoying ourselves and watching some incredible street performers. At one point, after our lunch at Oliver Plunkett's, we were on our way back to the hotel and came across a very interesting group of street performers. They were French, and a band. With trumpets, drums, saxophones, and all kinds of other instruments, but they were all dressed in bizarre garb. Men and women of young and old were dressed in drag, dressed as cows, wearing shark hats, etc. The audience enjoyed themselves, dancing and clapping as the band carried on with their own song and dance.

Tomorrow, we are off to catch a bus to see the Blarney Castle and kiss the stone!

Recommend: Cronin's, The Gap of Dunloe (the walk wasn't bad at all, we would do it over if we could) the boat ride isn't really optional, IrishRail is the trainline and it has been SUPER easy to navigate and manage, and our new hotel, The River Lee, in Cork.

Do Not Recommend: I didn't write a lot about it because we didn't really do anything with it, but yesterday was also a very big horse race in Killarney, and it was ladie's night on the whole town. WE recommend not making big plans to get in anywhere when both of those events are going at the same time.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When in Rome...

Except, i'm not in Rome, I'm in Ireland! 

I am struggling to remember the method to making the keyboard on my ipad work, so bear with me on the mistakes throughout. OH, and this is going to be a super long post. #sorrynotsorry

Our journey started off on Sunday with an AMAZING brunch at our favorite Chattanooga location, 1885. We stuffed ourselves appropriately, knowing we were not looking forward to airport/airplane food for the following 24 hours. Well worth it, might I add.

We tooke a Groome's van to the atlanta airport, which was actually not too bad, and we made good time. I would recommend it for that reason, but be careful, you could easily end up in a van that's packed full with smelly people, and we all know that is ewwww.

Anyways, we had no trouble on our flights and getting to our connecting flight was so simple because our flight landed in the gate next to where we were supposed to take off from! Handy, for sure.  We slept a grand total of 15 minutes on the 5 hour 45 minute flight, which made for a miserably long day thereafter.

I knew I would loooooooove Ireland as soon as we landed.  When we got off the plane and into the line for customs, we realized many people around us had these Landing Card papers, which we either didn't see, or were not given, but we were stressing about it for sure. As we walked up to the queue for entrance we told the man (who, was very Irish and definitely had bright red hair), that we didn't have the cards, his exact reply was, "no one cares, go ahead." In a tone that suggested that we were harmless and welcomed like it was no big deal. And so, that was my first encounter with the Irish. Casual, friendly, blunt.

Moving along (I realize no one wants to read my novel),  everything in Ireland so far, has been pretty stress free. Our Dublin hotel was perfectly centered near everything we wanted to see like the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Stephen's Green, and the city centre. My favorite thing in Dublin was definitely the Long Room at Trinity College, which is the library. We also managed to visit St.Patrick's Cathedral and the Guiness brewery. At lunch one day, Drew spotted one of his former neighbor's from when he lived in Japan, crazily enough. The guy was super nice and invited us out for a pint at a local pub. *side story: on the way to the Guiness brewery I told Drew I would not go down this particularly sketcky alley, and he didn't tell me it was really the way to go, so we probably walked an extra half/ three quarters of a mile to get to the brewery. Lesson learned? Let Drew lead.

This morning was took a 3 hour train ride to Killarney, which is my new favorite place. I mentioned earlier that every country I've been to has one place that I would easily move to. Lisseux, Valencia, Cairns, and Killarney. It's small and quaint, and everything is close by. It's only con is that it is a bit touristy, but not like Gatlinburg for example.

Our hotel in Killarney is super cute and very Irish with it's wooden carved Celtic designs in the banisters, and it's near everything one could want to see. Already, my favorite thing about this little place was the amazing candy shop that is run by a man honoring his grandfather with the shop. He had every candy style and type for every kind of taste you could be looking for. He made us try the Irish version of WarHeads, and that was the most painful experience my poor jaw has ever been through! But, I powered through the sourness, and made it to the sweet part, which let me tell you, is a FEAT.

This evening, we are going out for some Indian food, and then going pub hopping to listen to some live Irish music. Tomorrow, we are off with the group do to the Gap of Dunloe hike. Super exciting stuff!

I am taking pictures, but they are on my "good" camera so everyone will have to wait until I get home :)

Things I do recommend: Groome's, Aircoach in Dublin for getting to your hotel, Bobo's for Irish burgers, Pifko's for a paddle of beer and delicious potato carrot soup, Trinity College. The whole of Killarney.

Things I don't  recommend: the Guinness brewhouse is cool if you've never been to one, but it takes HOURS to go through and you're time would be better spent elsewhere.

More to come tomorrow! Hopefully, if I do this daily it will not be as long!