Our Euro adventure began as all overseas trips begin, with a REALLY long flight from the US across the pond. We left SoCal much earlier than we like to wake up, stopped long enough at JFK to grab a few beers to pad the next flight, met my mom and were on our way to Frankfurt. Due to some previous scheduling miscommunications we were on a one day trip to Germany to stay with my brother before taking off to Ireland the following day. Our trip with my hermano was brief, but so much fun! He drove us way too fast on the autobahn, introduced us to the Belgium Bistro and it’s delectable schnitzel with mushroom sauce, and some of the tastiest Belgium beers any of us had ever had! We fought jet leg the whole day and somehow managed to plan and book our upcoming adventures together (these will be described in additional posts, don’t you worry hah).
After a blur of a day and blur of a night we returned once more to the Frankfurt airport in pursuit of the green isle. After waiting in a line we didn’t need to, checking my mom’s gigantic suitcase (“I’m only going to bring a carry-on Ser, I swear” uh huh….), Jared trying to steal an unoccupied wheelchair to assist with our made dash to our gate, and the weirdest security checks, try explaining to the airport security why you flew literally halfway around the world for ONE day in their country, we boarded the plane to Dublin. If I close my eyes I can still see the vibrant green of the hillside and deep blue of the water as we approached on the plane. Ireland was more beautiful than I ever imagined! The vibrant green color of the country side was truly dazzling, and I’ve never wanted a pet sheep more in my life. After landing and some finagling at the rental car place, we were all set to head off to explore the Irish countryside in a sweet set of wheels (Photo 01 Peugeot baby!). Only one teensy detail remained, the Irish drive on the right side of the road and subsequently the driver’s side is also on the right side of the car, and did I mention that everyone drive’s a manual there too?… I’m sure this is a daunting task to undertake under the best of circumstances, but unfortunately for us we were all jet-lagged and starving. I think it’s a minor miracle we made it out of the parking lot and to the spot we stopped for lunch without crashing into someone or strangling each other inside the car. After a lunch beer to calm the nerves and a quick bite to eat we booked it out of Dublin to make it to Galway by the evening. Our hotel was a little outside the city of Galway, so we ate dinner in the hotel bar and called it an early night so we could explore the next morning.
Photo 01- Our chariot for the next 7 days
We definitely learned a lot about sleep deprivation on this portion of the trip, cause the thing about jet lag is that it lingers. You can barely keep your eyes open all day long, and as soon as you lay down for bed at night its a minor miracle if you can keep them closed longer than 20 minutes at a time. So after a relatively sleepless night we awoke to do some exploring around Galway. Lucky for us the Irish like their coffee strong, so after we ate (yes, ate, it’s so thick you could chew it) a cup and enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast (Photo 02). Galway is a quirky town set on a gorgeous bay; and in true Irish fashion the weather was cold, windy and with a constant threat of rain. But we didn’t let that damper our spirits, instead we forged on poking in various shops and updated our winter wardrobe (in the middle of August) with a new hat and wool scarf for my mom. We walked around the bay and enjoyed the farmer’s market where we picked up some of the best cheese (Photo 03) I’ve ever tasted and freshly baked bread from a street vendor. It was a perfect late lunch as we hit the road for the Cliffs of Moher.
Photo 02-Enjoying breakfast in Galway
Photo 03-Cheese in every shape, color, size and flavor imaginable
Driving on the nice wide orderly freeways of Ireland was one thing, driving on the “two” lane country roads (in reality one and a half lanes between both sides of the road) bordered by rock walls is quite another. I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I came bombing around a corner and was looking straight into the middle of a tour bus! After some brake slamming and quick maneuvering I found a pull out and Jared drove the rest of the day. We finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher right when the sky decided to open up. Undeterred, we ventured forth to explore the cliffs and they were jaw droopingly beautiful (Photo 04). I think the photos do it more justice than my descriptions ever could. After we had our fill of the cliffs we pressed on to Limerick for the night.
Photo 04- The Cliffs of Moher
The stay in Limerick was maybe the most bizarre night of this leg of our trip. We arrived into town a bit late, were accused of being actors by the man who checked us in (apparently the town of Fruitland is a somewhat comical name to the Irish), missed dinner at this sweet pub so we drank it instead (Photo 05), returned to the hotel to eat real dinner at the “American dinner” next door, and blew out the rooms power by attempting to plug in a power strip. Well this made things a bit difficult seeing as it was 10pm and pitch black, so with our headlamps on we went down to the desk and asked the man to help us out. The first time we inadvertently sent him to the wrong room so we had to make a second trip down to ask him to turn the lights back on and when he finally did come up, the thing was completely fried so we still didn’t get our power back. Who knew a power strip could blow an entire fuse system?! Now this is when the night began to take it’s turns. The desk man was very nice and offered to let us move rooms or take a 25% discount off the room, but since we caused the blackout we figured we should decline both. We got ready for bed by lamp light and finally turned in around midnight. At about 2am we awoke to the Irish youth returning to our hotel from the local bars, and that consisted of drunken slurs and screams and security coming to move them along. We all fell back asleep about 45minutes later to be awoken by ALL the lights in the room turning on and the TV blasting at its highest volume. This wasn’t the way I wanted to find out the power came back on! Jared and I are were trying to turn off lights and the TV while my mom is asking us to hold on so she can get her hair done before we leave. It was hilarious! Once we got everything off we tried to settle back down to sleep what remained of the night, only to be woken up at 4am by the entire buildings fire alarm system going off! We should have taken the 25% discount in retrospect.
Photo 05- A random castle across the river from the pub we tried to eat dinner at
We eventually got going the next day and worked our way towards Dingletown on the Dingle peninsula (Photo 06). The town of Dingle looks like it is straight out of a movie about Ireland; quaint, quiet, colorful and with the most amazing hills surrounding it to the west and a beautiful harbor to the east (Photo 07). We stayed at a B&B in town called the Pax House. If you ever find yourself in Dingle, stay here. It’s a little spendy, but the views of the bay are unbeatable, the hospitality is superb, and the breakfast is soooooo good (Photo 08). After some of the best fish chowder of my life we explored the town before everyone splitting ways to get some rest time. After basically not sleeping for 3 nights straight now we were all a little edgy. Jared and I made our way back to town for a few beers while my mom enjoyed the incredible views from the Pax House balcony with a glass of red wine. It’s amazing how much alcohol can help improve your mood sometimes. We wanted to call it an early night, but there was traditional Irish music being played in town that evening so we mustered up enough energy to go back for another pint and a few songs. The band was an older couple who were very good, and it was so fun to sit there among the locals enjoying a Sunday evening at what you could tell was the pub they have been coming to every Sunday for years. This was one of my favorite memories of Ireland. After a short sleep and being woken up by my mom an hour early since we forgot to move our watches forward, we got up for breakfast at the Pax House and took off to explore the Dingle Peninsula. I apologize for the repetition, but I’m running out of adjectives to describe how beautiful the Irish countryside is (Photo 09). The water looked almost tropical it was so blue and we lucked out with sunny warm weather so we all ended up putting our feet in the Atlantic. We visited one of the oldest oratories on the planet, hiked up hills to catch unbelievable views of the peninsula, and enjoyed the sunshine as we could see a storm moving in. After we had our fill of the views, we continued onward to Cork.
Photo 06-A pull off on the way to Dingle
Photo 07- Looking out over Dingle Bay on the road to the Pax House with the customary grazing sheep
Photo 08-View from our deck at the Pax House looking out at the Dingle Bay and the Ring of Kerry in the distance
Photo 09-View from our trip around the Dingle Peninsula
Cork was very different to me than anywhere else we stayed in Ireland. There’s a large university here, and there contributed a lot to the feel of the city. We got in later than we planned, surprise surprise, so we didn’t have much time or energy to look around that evening. We had dinner and a drink at a dive bar across from our hotel where the poor bartender was pulling double duty as cook and drink slinger. Jared’s glass of whiskey came with leftover lipstick free of charge! After turning in somewhat early for us we got up the next morning to hit Blarney Castle. This was both Jared and I’s favorite castle of the whole trip. The weather was incredible, sunny and hot, and we beat the crowds up to the top (we literally ran in front of a group of Australian people and almost got vertigo on the tiny spiral staircase), and were one of the first people of the day to kiss the Blarney stone (Photos 10&11). We poked around the castle, it’s poison garden, the strange cave nearby, and part of the castle’s larger gardens. I could have spent two full days at the castle poking around and would probably not have been satisfied (Photo 12). Around lunch we headed back into Cork and stopped at the English Market for lunch. The English Market is a covered market place where numerous vendors sell everything from fresh baked bread and cheese, to olives and seafood, to bags of rice and canned tomatoes. The food was so fresh and tasty we had to show real restraint from scarfing it all down at once. Once we had our fill we were ready to make our way back to Dublin for our final evening in the country.
Photo 10-Pucker up for the Blarney Stone and the gift of blarney!
Photo 11-Jared getting a turn at the Blarney Stone
Photo 12-Enjoying the sunshine at Blarney Castle
When we got to Dublin we couldn’t remember the exact name of our hotel so tried to check at the hotel we saw that corresponded to the GPS directions. We had to park the car on the sidewalk since there was no street parking, left my mom in it to hold down the fort with the hazards flashing, and tried to check in. Turns out you really should double check the name of your hotel, so we had to go back to the car and try to figure out where our hotel actually was (luckily it was right next door to the wrong one we tried to check in at) and had the sweetest Polish man help us out. He hopped in the car with us so we could park it at a nearby apartment complex they had a deal with, helped carry our bags the three blocks back to our hotel and then carried my mom’s monster bag up the stairs. We were so lucky to have such a nice person sent our way at this point in the trip since we were all so tired, grumpy and worn down I don’t think we could have made it without him. My mom wasn’t feeling the best this evening so after we were all settled in, Jared and I took off on our own to explore the Ireland’s capitol city. Our first stop was the Guinness Factory, which to me more closely resembled a modern art museum than a brewery. From the strange Haunted Mansion-esq talking portraits to the videos on loop it lacked the feeling of a brewery that we both really like so we more or less ran through the five floors of weird exhibits to make our way to the sky bar at the top for our “free” pint of Guinness. I say “free” because it costs you nearly 15 euro a person to get in the place with NO tasters along the way, so the least they can do is give you a pint at the top of it! But the views were stunning and again we were graced with sunny weather giving us a birds eye view over Dublin in every direction (Photo 13). And I have to admit the pint Guinness was the best I’d ever had. So all-in-all I’d say take the tour once in your life if the opportunity presents itself just to enjoy a pint overlooking the city, if for nothing else. We were starting to feel our stomachs rumble so we worked our way out of the museum, I mean brewery, and headed to a restaurant one of the workers recommended to us. When we got there we became embroiled in a conversation with some gentlemen outside the restaurant about a conspiracy theory involving Monsanto, Obama, and race wars in the US. It was weird. We politely left the conversation, made it into the restaurant and were put on the waiting list for a table. We figured we could go back outside and rejoin the conspiracy conversation or go upstairs to the bar for a drink. This was a no brainer, we moseyed upstairs to one of the best stocked bars I’ve ever been fortunate enough to lay eyes on. Since there were so many tasty looking choices we both had a flight to try as many of them as we could. After some confusion involving multiple menus for the same restaurant, we ate the best hamburgers of our lives and made friends with another young American couple on their honeymoon sitting next to us.
Photo 13-Cheers to Guinness overlooking Dublin
When we got up the next morning and prepared to head to the airport for London we realized we didn’t know the name or location of our hotel in there. This posed a real problem considering the fact that London is gigantic and we had no idea where we were going once we got there. Trying not to panic we attempted to call, Facebook, text, send smoke signals, etc. to my brother with no response. How did it all work out you ask? Well, that will have to wait until the next blog post. Because that’s a whole-nother story……