20 July 2009

Ireland by Bus

Wednesday 8 July 2009

In preparation for our flight to Ireland, Mel and I thought it best to just not go to sleep as our bus to the airport was picking us up at 03:15am. In hindsight, this may have not been a bad idea. It was surprisingly easy to stay awake until then - we packed and took showers - but we missed four hours of our first day in Ireland because we had to take a nap.

Thursday 9 July 2009

We got to the airport much earlier than needed. Apparently international flights aren't that big of a deal over here because an hour would have been most sufficient and we arrived two and half hours earlier. Trying not to fall asleep, we waited for Starbucks to open so that we could get something for breakfast - no coffee though because we wanted to be able to sleep on the plane. It worked, because Mel and I both fell asleep before the plane even took off. The flight was very short. It seemed like we were ascending and descending within minutes of getting in the air.

We arrived in Dublin, Ireland around 08:30am and got a bus into the city centre. Luckily, Mel had picked up a map of Dublin before we left, so we only got a little lost trying to find the hostel. We were thankful that they let us check in early because our beds were calling our names. We stayed in a room with 20 beds - it wasn't that bad though because it was like a long hallway with five little cubbies holding 2 sets of bunkbeds.
We napped for around four hours before we ventured out into the city. First on our list was getting lunch. We got paninis and sat in the courtyard of Christchurch Cathedral. It was a lovely little spot, a little wet, but lovely nonetheless and our paninis were delicious! After lunch, we made our way to the Guiness Storehouse to take the tour.
The Guiness Storehouse tour was a little disappointing in that we didn't actually get to see them brewing the beer. The brewing has actually not been done in the storehouse for some time now and all that is left is an exhibit that they've created that talks about the brewing process - all the ingredients and what not - and then it also has stuff about Arthur Guiness and Guiness advertising. I enjoyed myself though. The way they presented the information was just the right balance between words and pictures to keep my attention. :) The tour ends in the Gravity Bar which is the highest point is Dublin where they give you a complimentary pint of Guiness. Mel and I choked down about a half a pint each then admitted defeat and went to St. Patrick's Cathedral.
St. Patrick's Cathedral was a wash. There was a service going on. Needless to say, we didn't actually get to go inside. We walked around the outside to take pictures. Then, while I sat and figured out where we should go next, Mel took a nap in the grass. At this point it was late enough that we didn't really want to try to do anything else so we just got dinner, at an American diner no less. It was awesome - a bit pricey - but awesome! I had the best hamburger since I've been abroad and CHEESE FRIES! When we got back to our hostel we realized that we had a cubby-mate. His name was John and he was from Chicago! We chatted with him for quite awhile before going to bed - we even made friends with him on facebook the next day!
Friday 10 July 2009

We woke up very early because the tour that we had scheduled was leaving at 08:15am. Luckily, the headquarters for Shamrocker Tours was located in the lobby of our hostel, so we didn't have to get up quite as early as the other girls who were going on the tour with us. We loaded on the bus and headed toward the Rock of Cashel. Located in Cashel, County Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of kings for the province of Munster before the Norman invasion. It was raining and the ground was slippery and I slipped down the hill as we were leaving to head to our next destination.
The next stop on the tour was the Mitchelstown Caves. For all of you reading this from the Madison area, it was like Cave of the Mounds except not as cool AND we weren't allowed to take pictures! There were formations in there that I had never seen before. Instead of the standard stalagmite or stalactite, they were called "curtains" and they only form on sloping cave walls. They were most beautiful and kind of reminded me of Georgia O'Keeffe flower paintings. You should google them to see what they look like!

The third stop of the day was the Blarney Castle. And yes, we all kissed the Blarney Stone! Apparently, kissing the Blarney Stone gives you the "gift of the gab" which means that you will have the gift of BS for the rest of your life, which I'm not sure I need because I'm pretty good at it already. What an awkward experience. You have to lay on your back then someone slides you backward until you are close enough to kiss it and they help you back up. One of the girls on the tour with me actually hit her head on the Blarney Stone because the guy pulled her up too quickly.
Our hostel for the night was located in Killarney. It was rather lovely. The six of us got to share a room and they had free wi-fi, so we took turns using Mel's iPod touch to access our email and facebooks because goodness knows we can't go a whole weekend with it. We had a lovely dinner - albeit more expensive than any of us would have liked - at The Granary with our bus driver. Then we walked around the town a little bit. It was very touristy.

Saturday 11 July 2009

We were on the bus by 08:30am for day two of our tour of Southern Ireland. The first stop, very quickly because it was raining, was at Dingle Peninsula -
a very lovely spot where people like to surf.
In between, we stopped to take pictures at Beehive Huts.
Afterward, we stopped, very briefly again because it was still raining, at Lahinch - the western most point of Europe.
On the bus ride to the Cliffs of Moher we were informed that scenes for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were filmed there, so we all got very excited! Luckily, the rain let up just long enough for all of us to have a proper look around. It was very windy though and several times every one of us was nearly blown over. The Cliffs were so beautiful.
We drove to Doolin where we would be staying for the night. I really enjoyed it there because there were no tourists in site. It was frustrating though that there were only four pubs in town and they all served the same food and were all expensive. We picked the one that was closest to our hostel, naturally, and we met two very lovely couples who were vacationing in Doolin and we chatted for a better part of the evening. We got Irish coffees and pints out of it - pretty good deal if I do say so myself.
Sunday 12 July 2009

The morning went just the same as the day before - on the bus by 08:30am and on to the sites of the day.

Our first stop was at a Fairy Ring. Celtic folklore says that these are places to be avoided - especially walking inside of one - because if you do you will be cursed. It was an odd and lovely place.
Burren Plateau and Pol na Brone Dolmen - limestone formations and a burial site
Clonmacnoise - an old Monastic settlement

Whiskey Distillery
We went back to Dublin in the evening. Mel and I walked around for a while, but because it was so late everything was closed as it was Sunday. We left very early Monday morning to return to London.

Click on this link to view my facebook album from my trip to Ireland: