Ireland: Land of Wishes, Luck, & Leprechauns

16 11 2011

Here come a couple blog posts all about my trip to Ireland! 🙂

I was there for a total of 5 days and had a blast! My first two days I was traveling solo; my friend Paolina and her boyfriend were in London and met me in Dublin a couple days later. At first I was skeptical about being there alone, but I ended up really enjoying the time I spent on my own! Rather than exploring Dublin first and having to double-up on some sights once the other two arrived, I found two great day-trip tours to go on while there alone. And I couldn’t be any happier with that choice! I would have really missed out on a lot of Ireland if I would have spent all of my time in Dublin!

The first day-trip I took went to the village of Blarney and the towns of Cork and Cobh. In Blarney, we were dropped off at the Blarney Castle. While there we had time to roam around the castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. The stone is up at the very top of the castle so you first have to climb up the narrowest spiral staircase I’ve ever seen, and then you have to lay on your back while one of the workers lowers you down in between the castle wall and the stone  so that you can kiss the stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to give the kisser the gift of eternal eloquence. After the castle, I made my way back into the village of Blarney to grab lunch before we had to be back on our bus. I ate at an old mill that is now turned into a shopping center, restaurant, and hotel. For my first real meal in Ireland, I, of course, ordered fish and chips. 🙂

That afternoon, we then hopped back on the bus and headed to see Cork and Cobh. In Cork, we took a driving tour around the town and saw some of the sights. Then we drove to Cobh. Since our tour guide liked us so much, he made an extra stop for us. There we got to see where the Titanic was last anchored. We also went to a gorgeous cathedral and to a museum on Irish emigration.

The next day, I was up early again and at the train station by 7am for my second day-trip. This one took me farther west, to the coast, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and to the city of Galway. We first arrived in Limerick and had a quick tour of the city before heading out to Bunratty Castle. The castle was built in 1425 and has now been restored and a folk park has been added next to the castle.  After wandering around the castle and folk park we hopped back on our bus and headed to a little village called Doolin. Doolin is right next to the Cliffs of Moher. Before visiting the cliffs we had lunch at O’Conner’s Pub. It was a quite little pub in Doolin and served delicious chowder!

Next up were the Cliffs of Moher, which were really the main reason I wanted to take this day-trip. Luckily, we had great sunny weather at the cliffs, but it was really windy! The cliffs were beautiful and we had great views of the ocean! The only downfall about the cliffs is that there is a rock fence that stopped me from getting anywhere near the edge! (I think my mom was happy to hear that after seeing my pictures from Preikestolen.) I had thought that the cliffs would be the highlight of the tour, but to my surprise, I liked our next stop even better! It was a place called The Burren, meaning “rocky place.” The Burren is a bit hard to describe and I’m not entirely sure how it formed; all I know is that it was really cool! Check out the pictures and you’ll see what I mean. 😉

After the Burren we continued onto Galway. Along the way we stopped at a few scenic spots for pictures and some factoids from our guide. In Galway, we had about an hour to spend before our train departed. I stopped in a grocery store to grab a sandwich for the ride back and enjoyed my first authentic Irish coffee in a nearby cafe. After that we were on our way back to Dublin.

I have to tell you a little bit about how great the people on my tours were. Starting with our tour guides: they were both old, Irish men filled with tons of information and great senses of humor! They were just as entertaining as the sights themselves. They had so many great little stories that you could only hear from them and made the trips that much more entertaining! The first tour guide I had was named Liam and he was a character! He offered to take our picture at every major site along the way and since I was traveling alone I took him up on the offer every time. The first time he took my picture was at the Blarney Castle and I went and stood by the sign waiting for him to snap the picture and he said, “Okay, well you could stand like that, or you could put one hand here and one over there (as he places my hands on the sign). Right there! Don’t move! Okay, let me take another one!” He was so funny! He has been a tour guide for over 12 years and knows all the best places for pictures and each time he took my picture he would pose me. It was neat to see how into his job he was and that he really did care about all of us traveling with him. Both him and my other tour guide made sure at the end of each day that everyone traveling on the tour knew where they were going and how to get there. They offered to get us a cab, walk us to the tram, or point us in the right direction. The first night, Liam “allowed” me to just walk back to my hostel (it was only about a ten minute walk), but on Friday, Billy refused to let me walk so he shooed me onto the tram and made sure I knew where to hop off at. 🙂 Not only did I have great tour guides, but I had great peers traveling with me as well! I was a little apprehensive since I didn’t know anyone, but I realized it was no problem traveling with strangers. In fact, I think it made the days more fun and more interesting getting to know new people. The first day I had chit chatted here and there with my fellow travelers, but mostly explored on my own so that I could see all I wanted to see in the time we had. But the second day there were only 5 of us on the tour so we got to know each other a little bit more. I first met a father-son duo who were from Texas. I was excited to converse with some friendly Americans, and soon found out that the son is a pilot – hooray for airplane talk! I promise we talked about more than airplanes and aviation, but at times we drifted onto the topic. 🙂 He and his dad were super friendly people and I got to know them over the course of the day and they made the trip a lot of fun as well!

Well there’s a summary of just my first two days in Ireland. Next up: Tales about Dublin! Enjoy some pictures from my day-trips:

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