Day 8: Wool you be my valentine?

Rain drip drap dropping on your window when you’re waking up on an Irish Saturday isn’t that unusual so you won’t be surprised to hear that that’s how I woke up today. I actually love the rain. I’ve always had a dream that I might end up in a rainy city someday, like Seattle.

Anyway, today was the one day I had hoped it wouldn’t rain. Oh well, though. It makes the adventure all the more fun, I suppose!

We headed down to Blarney today to visit the one, the only, Blarney Castle. I’ll cut to the chase; the part you’re all wondering.. And the answer is no, I didn’t get a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone. And, I KNOW! How could I not? Well, we were typical tourists today and as with all typical tourists, we were on a bus. The bus arrived, gave us about an hour and a half, and then planned to leave. FYI to all future travelers, an hour and a half is sadly, not enough time to get to where you need to be and wait for the long line of other well wishers gripping tightly to the promise of the Gift of Gab.

Now with that disappointment out of the way, on to the good stuff. We decided to take the opportunity that I bet a lot of typical tourists don’t take the time to do and that’s explore. We wandered around the grounds and around the castle itself. I found Badgers Cave and followed that, whilst crouching, until I hit the dead-end. Then, I turned around. Exciting, I know. But it really was. 🙂

Oh! I did splurge on an authentic lambswool throw and I can’t wait to snuggle up with it when I land stateside! I almost didn’t buy it but someone (mom) told me I’m worth it and I figured I should listen to her. Moms are always right. Right?

After Blarney, we ventured to Cobh. I’ve been way too excited to go here for the silliest of reasons. I haven’t been able to figure out how to pronounce Cobh. Is it “Cob” as in corn? “Cob-ha” with a hard H? Guess what guys and gals? The Gaelic language doesn’t have a “V” so when they need to make that sound, they plug in a “BH.” Makes sense, yeah? Anyway, it’s pronounced “Cove” as in a small type of bay or coastal inlet.

Cobh was a beautiful little nook in Ireland. We had lunch at a weird tasteless cafe and hiked up the steepest hill I’d ever been on to visit St. Coleman’s Cathedral. Well worth the hike even if my mom thinks I’m trying to kill her by jazzercising every stinkin’ day! She said she’s going to live to be at least 100, so I think of it as adding days to that.

Cobh is really a neat place in southern Ireland. As with everywhere we’ve been, I wish we could have stayed a bit longer. There was a museum up another hill that we didn’t get a chance to explore and the inside of the cathedral was spectacular. Going to mass in a place like that would have been lovely. There’s always next time.

Day 7: The poetry of earth is never dead.. -John Keats

Today was breathtaking. We spent the majority of our day at two of the most beautiful and untouched places in Ireland; the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. If you ever find yourself in Ireland, which I hope you will, put these two places at the top of your list.

It’s difficult to compare each day we’ve had on our trip. Every day is better than the last but at the same time, nothing can compare to the day prior. With that being said, both the Ring of Kerry (yesterday) and today’s trip were worth every single step and ounce of tired in our bodies. The views were spectacular. The ocean’s wild waves smashing into the side of the rocks and hitting us was refreshing. The wind, both literally and figuratively, took my breath away. Even with all of the people and the noise (of the people), I was still able to just be there and soak it all in for as long as I possibly could.

And with that, I can’t say anything more but to show you what I saw. Bucket list item, check.

Day 6: The Ring of Kerry

Boarding the kelly green Paddywagon Bus with a giant leprechaun head on it at approximately 8:20 this morning, we set even further west then we were when we awoke and headed towards the Iveragh Peninsula. The Ring of Kerry was our destination. I’m sure my friend Wikipedia will give you a better description, but the Ring of Kerry is a twisty, curvy, super duper narrowly thin stretch of road that loops around all of the most amazing views you could ever dream of when visiting Irelands west coast. It’s said that this same loop was taken by the Vikings back in the day when they were being buttheads and invading Ireland.

We started our day in Killarney or as Mike, the 2nd singing tour guide we’ve now had, calls it, ‘Larney.. Killarney, and so many other towns and villages we’ve visited, is bright and full of color even on the most rainy of days like today. I wonder if this is intentional? I guess Ireland gets rain 225 days a year, on average. I think I’d need a bright colored door and even brighter painted home as well if I lived here. Or rather, when I live here.

We had a handful of stops today. Some, we had enough time to take in our surroundings. And unfortunately some, we did not. Our driver stopped in the village of Sneem, the town that sells a lot of ice cream. No joke. While most of the bus lined up for some Irish Cream (I swear, I didn’t mean that to sound as bad as it does), I wandered around in the village park looking for a 4-leaf clover. I picked a few 3-leafers; I’m not sure I’ll be lucky enough to score a four but I have a week left!

My first view of the Atlantic Ocean, actually any ocean, was at a stop somewhere along Dingle Bay overlooking the peninsula and Inch Beach. We pulled along side the road where a local man was sitting with his goat, weaving Bridges crosses. To some, water is just water. The ocean looks the same as Lake Superior and Lake Superior looks the same as Lake of the Woods which looks the same as the Mississippi. To those people, I’ll proclaim fake news all day.

The views I had today of the Atlantic Ocean looking over Dingle Bay and then again in Waterville and Ballinskelligs Bay were next to none over and over in such a short time. One panoramic view isn’t like the other and no shot (or video) I could ever take would do it justice without being there yourself. The small islands that are scattered around the big island we’re viewing from have so much history; most of which is untold to tourists like me. It was all just so incredible.

The last stop of the day was Killarney National Park, home of the Torc Waterfall. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love exploring the state and national parks in the States and today was no different in Ireland. The only park stop on the tour was the waterfall specifically so I didn’t get a chance to explore much but we did have a short hike of about 200 meters up to the falls from where we parked. By the time we arrived, the rain was coming down again (I’d been off and on all day), so the dirt incline was a little on the slippery side. But the hike up there in the rain was so worth every second of “ope!” I whispered to myself as I almost took a misstep. Have I mentioned that waterfalls are probably my favorite thing in this world? I hope you enjoy my photos from today. 🙂

Day 5: No, Nay, Never!

We’re running a little low on energy today. I think it’s a mixture of getting used to the time change, the various activities we’ve been partaking in, and the ever-changing weather.

Today was a semi-travel day. We made our way early this morning to bus stop 325 otherwise known as 704X by the locals. Good thing we listened to the GPS and not the front desk dude at checkout!

The walk to the bus stop was about 15 minutes and we crossed over Lake Liffey for the first time by foot. It’s even more beautiful while walking at our own pace vs the pace of the tour bus yesterday.

The ride to Cork was about three hours. I’ve always been cool with long rides as long as I’m not the one in the drivers seat. I planned to read and/or write a little bit; look through the photos I’ve taken, etc. My body had different plans. I’ve never been one to be carsick but I was getting queazy from the drive today and I fear it’ll be a recurring theme for the rest of the trip. Closing my eyes helped but it wasn’t until we arrived in Cork that I began to feel better. Anyone have tips to prevent this from happening?

We walked a few blocks to drop our luggage off at Jury’s Inn on Anderson’s Quay and then ventured out to explore the quaint streets of the city in what is known as the Rebel County for a bit before ending the day early and taking some time to relax at the hotel. Perfect timing too because it’s been a rainy and blustery day today. It sounds like we were on the tail end of Storm Ali in and around the entire southern portion of Ireland.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Irish songs that we’ve heard on our trip so far. It’s been stuck in my head all day and I hope it’ll bring you as much joy as it brings me!

Day 4: 2B anyone? Or not to be.

Our first truly full day was packed with more options to do than time to do it; something that’s preferred in my book. I’d rather have too many things than not enough.

We hopped aboard our aptly named Hop On, Hop Off City Sightseeing Tour and were greeted by the singing tour-guide I remember seeing on the brochure. Jackpot! Declan was his name and covering Elvis Presley perfectly was his game.

Declan, the tour-guide, was wonderful. He displayed the Irish kindness and humor you read about and even though it was his job to go through the talking points of the tour, we learned a bit about him as a person, as well. His wife died of cancer a few years ago and his daughter was recently diagnosed with the same sickness but she’s thankfully doing well and is strong. Declan also made reference to growing up in Dublin and how he’d suppressed a lot of the horrible things he’d seen, up until recently. He mentioned the frustrations and annoyance he had with the Pope paying a visit to Dublin a couple of weeks ago and how he worked through it among other topics. Even providing the struggles he chose to share with a bunch of strangers, he had the most delightfully jolly of personalities. It just goes to show that no matter who you are and what is behind you, it’s our choice to make the most of every single day. If I learn nothing else in life, I hope I’ll always remember Declan, the songbird of his generation.

We hopped off at a few places today. First, was Dublin Castle. We toured the main part of the Castle, The State Apartments and The Castle Gardens. Construction on Dublin Castle began in 1204 and was finished around 1230. A timeframe that I can’t even make sense of. Until now, the oldest buildings I’m sure I’ve ever seen have probably been homes built in the late 1800’s.

The Castle is just as intricately designed as I imagined it would be, both inside and out. There’s a grand staircase leading to a formal dining room. The actual name of this room is The Portrait Gallery. I should have counted the seats and the paintings, but I didn’t. Beyond the dining room was the Throne Room. Queen Victoria sat in the throne when she visited the Castle as did Kings before and after her. The last time a monarch sat in that throne before Irish independence was a few years short of the first World War.

There was a long hallway and some additional rooms in the area that we toured. They are mostly used now for displaying various mediums of artwork which I enjoyed taking in. We then made our way through the Castle Cafe and meandered around the The Castle Gardens basking in the beautiful and (per the locals, unusually) sunny day.

After leaving the Castle grounds, we walked a couple of blocks up the hill to see Christ Church Cathedral and Dublina. The cathedral was under some sort of construction in the front of the building and service was in session so we just went ’round the outside. The cathedral is connected to Dublina, a stop that turned out to kind of be a dud. We pulled the typical tourist card and were like “Oh, lets check out this super cool looking building and learn about the Viking and Medieval history of Dublin.” Meh. I did decide to hike up the 96 steps for a good view overlooking the city. The guy at the front desk talked me into it. #doitforthegram

We also hopped off at Guinness for a quick look around. I tried it, guys and gals, Guinness.. And I’m not a fan. I didn’t expect to be either but you know what they say: “When in Rome!” Or rather “When in Ireland, do as the tourists do!” Why do I always give into social norms? The walk around the Guinness Storehouse grounds were worth checking out though.

Without question, the best place we stopped today was Glasnevin Cemetery. The cemetery holds over 1.5 million graves and as morbid as it may sound, is absolutely breathtaking. Any photo I could take wouldn’t give you nearly the scope of the feeling you get when visiting the cemetery. Both my mom and I enjoy going to cemetery’s; I think we always have. I used to visit my grandpas grave a lot in Warroad growing up and we did a Ghosts and Graves tour of Minneapolis a few years back.

The O’Connell Tower overlooks the entire cemetery and beyond. Although it seems obvious that it’s the focal point, it’s just a small part of the grounds. There of dozens upon dozens of crypts and mausoleums that have been on display for hundreds of years and thousands of family graves that seem to be intertwined together. I could have spent an entire day here, if not more, providing we had the time.

Tomorrow, Cork. Are corks made in Cork? That is the question.

Day 3: I thought our hotel room entrance was through a half-door.

We’ve arrived! Or as the Irish would say, “táimid tar éis teacht!” I’m trusting Google translate on this one so just go with it. Out of the three airports I’ve now been to, the Dublin airport is the most visually appealing. Lots and lots of glass and green; very easy to navigate. Minneapolis’ is too but it’s much larger or seems to be anyway.

All was semi-well today. Maybe more weird than anything trying to adjust to a new normal for the next 12 or so days. The views coming into Ireland were spectacular. We watched the sun rise on the horizon while descending this morning. That, paired with the green island and blue sea.. It was one chef kiss away to a perfecto!

All was good until we hit customs. I had been prepared knowing what our plans were; I have outlines for both my mom and me. We did some reading knowing that we may be asked questions on our purpose for traveling but damn, Daniel was it nerve-wracking. There’s a dude at work that once told me “kindness if free,” yes with the typo. I wanted to share that nugget of wisdom today but I’m sure she wouldn’t have been happy with me if I did. We got through it though!

On our ride to City Centre, there was a couple celebrating 50 years together this year. He and his wife are spending three days in Dublin and then heading to Rome for a couple of weeks. He was trying to figure out what stop to get off on and said something along the lines of just being a small town farm boy from Indiana. He just wants to get to Rome so he can serende his wife on a gondala. At that moment on an Airlink Express Bus somewhere in Dublin, my heart literally melted.

We found our hotel pretty easily after the bus stop and dropped our bags off before hitting the streets to find our first tour bus. With the help of a local Irishman, we found where we needed to be in no time and took a loop around the city just to see the sites and get used to our surroundings. Parts of Dublin remind me of Madison, WI. I think it’s mostly because of the pedestrian only areas. It was unusually mellow and relativly quiet though, in Dublin. We had expected more of a hustle and bustle vibe.

After a pit stop back to the hotel for a power nap (because we were crashing hard) and a break to watch a violinist play Somewhere Over The Rainbow (one of my favs!), we jumped aboard an evening sightseeing tour. Dublin in the evening is just as beautiful as in the day. Our tour guide sang us songs the entire time and played guitar to boot. It was a perfect way to end our first day in a new ‘land.

P.S. I’ll update this post sometime tomorrow with photos. I need to figure out how to get to sleep tonight. 🙂

Day 2: The Nerdvana Annihilation

Not much to report on a day full of time traveling. We made it to MSP a couple of hours early as advised because we’re both paranoid and prepared flying newbs.

It was my moms first time there and my second. I had a good idea of what to expect because my friend Alicia and I hit up Cleveland a little over a year ago but it was a bit different this time around.

We just zoomed right through the security checkpoints like it was no big thing. I had expected to remove our shoes and unload half of our personal item/carry on bags contents because of the whole “electronics go in their own bin” thing. Guess not. Or at least not today.. Or maybe not this airline? Who knows. The simpler the better was cool with us.

My favorite part of flying is the takeoff and landing. The ascent reminds me of the Starship 3000, that spaceship county fair ride growing up. AKA, so relaxing. Why had no one ever made that comparison when I had asked countless times what flying is like in years past? Jeez, guys!

I was curious to see what my mom would think of her first “real” flight. Prior to today, she’d only ever been on a 4-passenger and 6-passenger plane. Both were years and years ago. She liked the ascension also. She definitely didn’t act as giddy as I did on my first flight ever but she’s also not as dramatic as I am; if you can believe that. My mom did say though, while we were waiting for our connection, that she’s not sure what she thinks of flying in general. Her ears didn’t pop the entire 3ish hours we were waiting so everything was muffled as if there was a wall between us which is a very frustrating feeling.

With that being said.. Family and friends, you’ll be happy to hear that we made it to our connecting city of Charlotte, NC and miraculously didn’t get sucked into the hurricane threatening that region of the country. Our flight to Dublin did end up being delayed slightly but only by about 45 minutes. We’re safe and sound. I hope someone called Grandma Darlene.

The Charlotte Douglas International Airport was lightly illuminated today and at about 60% operation if I had to choose a random percentage. We did overhear an employee tell a waiting passenger that a lot of people haven’t been able to come to work the last couple of days due to the weather, thus the ghost-town vibe we kept encountering.

As I type this, I’m sitting in seat 26A on flight 724 eastbound to Dublin, Ireland. A surprisingly delicious dinner (I mean, supper) was served about 20 minutes ago. I need to ask my mom when we land what the round pea looking pieces of food were. (The flight isn’t full so my mom moved up a seat because why not?) They weren’t peas; they didn’t taste it and were very pale in color but I don’t even know if they were veggies. They were good AF though. She’ll know what they were because she’s a mom and they know everything. Thank you, Jesus, for mother’s. 🙌🏼

Well, I should try to catch some zzz’s. I hear traveling through space and time causes this thing called jet lag and we’re hitting the ground running when we land. Until you read again, slán.