The day’s agenda: Say goodbye to Ashford and hello to Galway.
The weather for the day was stunning, another blue sky day to follow up the few days of rain and gray skies we saw earlier.
After breakfast, we decided to wander around a bit before heading to Galway. The appearance of the sun transformed the look of the grounds. The grass around here is impossibly green. Part of me still can’t believe that we had the privilege of staying in a real live castle!
Goodbye Ashford, hello Galway!
After a short drive (filled with closed roads and much confusion on all our parts, humans and Garmins alike) we made it to Galway and our hotel. I’m finally getting the hang of the infamous roundabouts! Yes, I am quite proud of myself. Since our room wasn’t quite ready, we parked Seamus in the hotel’s car park and wandered around the Galway city center. Galway has a younger and more vibrant vibe than Dublin, but it could just be that the city is a bit younger.
There’s a cool archaeological dig site in the center of the city
The view from our room
During our afternoon wanders, we had a delicious lunch at a place called 56 Central. The food was reasonably priced and not heavy in the slightest. The perfect kind of meal, I’d say! There were a lot of cool stores in the city center that we wandered. I finally found a reasonably-priced Irish-made wool sweater! I also grabbed some more gifts for friends that I am excited to give them when we return home. Somehow throughout our travels, I left my water bottle somewhere…so some lucky person now has an orange Colorado State University bottle. Happy birthday, random person!
We finally got into our room at the hotel, where we are currently resting before heading out to dinner and maybe to check out some of the nightlife (I am NOT drinking excessively tonight, I swear). My goal is to find a place that has another craft beer from Galway Bay Brewery called Buried at Sea. It looks delicious. If I find it I’ll report back! We also may try and check out the Róisín Dubh and any other unusual place that crosses our path.
I can’t believe we have been in Ireland for ten days! In some ways, it feels like longer than that, but in others, it feels way shorter. I blame jet lag and one too many pints of Guinness (but it’s so delicious).
Ginger count: as far as I’m concerned, the Ginger Army is 10,000 strong.
The day’s agenda: Taking a walk with the resident Irish Wolfhounds, horseback riding, falconry, dinner in the Dungeon restaurant.
Dani and I were up and fed by 08:30 to go for a walk with some giant beasties. Their names were Cronin and Garvin (or something like that). They are owned by the estate but taken care of by a gentleman who is besotted with the two beasts. Garvin was the larger of the two and weighs in at well over 150 pounds. That’s more than a Miranda after too much ice cream!
They were both hysterical, especially Cronin, who was prone to random bursts of energy followed by periods of plodding along beside us looking like a tired Eeyore.
Our walk was in a lovely forested part of the estate. All of the forests on the property are young-planted around 150 years ago when Lord Ardilaun (a member of the Guinness family. They are and were everywhere!) owned the estate. The western part of Ireland was stripped of all its trees long ago by settlers and inhabitants, so the property was mostly green fields separated by stone fences. Lord Ardilaun decided he wanted to attract more birds to the estate, so he planted a crap ton of trees. Nowadays the forest is quite stunning.
After walking the dogs, we headed over to the Equestrian Centre for our three-hour trek. We signed our life away on the waiver sheets and were evaluated for our riding ability before heading out onto the paths. Sadly, I forgot my camera at the stables during our ride. We were treated to lovely views all around, even going up onto the highest point nearby to see a breathtaking view of Lough Corrib. It has clear waters and over three hundred islands, most uninhabited, but a few were home to some magnificent ruins from abbeys and such. Continue reading “Ireland Day 10”
Ginger count: I gave up. There are way too many gingers to count. It’s like a ginger army over here.
The day’s agenda: travel to Ashford Castle in County Mayo while stopping in Adare to take in the cuteness of the town.
I had every intention of getting up and running around 06:00. Dani ended up catapulting me out of bed (again) around 08:30 or so so we could get breakfast and have an early start. I was in sloth mode, so we left a little before 11:00. The drive was excellent, except we hit stop and go traffic on the far side of Killarney. And it continued to Adare, which is about an hour away. I was not a happy camper when we got to Adare. The road rage was real. Although Dani has learned how to be a top-notch navigator! Although our stupid Garmin navigator thing has brain farts more often than she decides to give us decent directions.
Adare was cute; there were thatched cottages everywhere and a castle right by the road. I parked in what might have been the jankiest spot I have ever found. Getting poor Seamus back out of the spot later made me break out in sweat and mumble nasty words. We both had delicious food at a local cafe, which always makes the Dani and Miranda Show happy. We opted to travel on instead of exploring the town more since there was a metric butt-ton of tourists around (I know, that’s the tomato calling a melon fruit).
The rest of the drive was mostly uneventful, although I struggle in roundabouts with more than a single lane running through them — a lot. Actually, I hate roundabouts here in general. They are everywhere. I have driven stretches of the road less than 3km long with at least five roundabouts in them. Why, Ireland, why????
Once we arrived at Ashford, we drove through a gate and were greeted by some adorable old Irishmen in green suits. Then we continued through the grounds until we saw the castle. I wasn’t expecting a real castle, but holy guacamole it’s a real castle. We went over a bridge where we found yet another man who directed us to the valet. I didn’t know what to do with myself. We went to grab our bags, and the guy got offended. Dani was losing her tacos at this point. I worried she would start foaming at the mouth in her excitement.
We got all checked in (I just stood there dazedly with my mouth hanging open, to be honest) and then shown to our room by a hilarious concierge. He was great! He’s close to our age and has beautiful greenish-hazel eyes and a sharp wit. Maybe Dani or I will complete our “kiss an Irish guy” goal here. I think Dani is dragging him out drinking at some point (she’s a force to be reckoned with, that one).
Upon walking into our room, the first thing I said was “It smells like pot in here!” The room totes smells of marijuana. The concierge apologized and said they couldn’t find the source of the smell. I’m not convinced there isn’t a secret pot garden somewhere (Just kidding. I think.) Everything is also automated, the lights, the door key, everything. So naturally, I had to go around and push all the buttons. The bathroom lights don’t turn completely off. They turn blue. So strange.
I decided to go for a quick run and Dani wanted to explore the grounds, so we parted ways with the intention of meeting back in the room around 18:30 to head to our 18:45 dinner reservations. I ended up running through beautiful woods by the river (I took no pictures today, I promise there will be many tomorrow) and headed back to the room early to shower. I couldn’t figure out how to close the shower door (because there isn’t a shower door, only a useless screen thing) and then could figure out how to turn the water off. There were two shower heads and a standard tub spigot. In my struggles, I may have gotten water everywhere and almost fell out of the tub at one point. The struggle is real.
Dani didn’t show up at the appointed time, so I tried to get a hold of her. She called me saying something about getting lost in the woods and hurrying back to the restaurant. I decided to head down to find the restaurant only to realize that I couldn’t remember a) the name of the restaurant and b) where it was. I might have wandered around the hotel confusedly until one of the staff finally asked me if I needed directions. Here is the following conversation:
Valet: “Can I help you with something?” (thick German accent)
Me: “Where is the not fancy restaurant that’s not the dungeon?”
Him: “The George is our formal dining.”
Me: “I want the not fancy one.”
Him: “The dungeon is downstairs…” (we were standing in front of the sign pointing to the Dungeon)
Me: “No, the other one! I think it starts with a C.”
Him: “The cottage?”
Me: *nods enthusiastically*
Him: “It is over on the other side of the bridge outside of the castle.”
I may have yelled thanks and run off in the other direction because I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes. I finally got to the restaurant and Dani and I enjoyed a delicious meal. She also told me how she got lost in the woods while talking to her mom and wandered around for three-quarters of an hour before ending up in Cong (the little village near the estate). Then she made her way back to the restaurant. I’m getting that girl a homing beacon for her birthday…
On our way back to the castle, she also attempted to run back off into the woods. I found out that the hoods of jackets make for good leashes! Now she may have coerced me into going out drinking again…what could go wrong?
Since I don’t have any pretty pictures to share today, here’s a blonde moment:
The first night in the Sheen Falls Lodge I think I mentioned something about there being a pathetically shallow lake. Well, the next day I went back to reception and the lake was full! I stood there confused until I asked the receptionist about it. He said that the tide had come in, at which point I looked at him with a shocked expression and exclaimed, “wait, it’s saltwater and not freshwater??” He looked at me like I had an alien sprouting out of my head and slowly said, “no, it’s a bay…” *facepalm*
Ginger count: 8 regular gingers, was too busy sightseeing to determine super status.
The day’s agenda: visit Muckross House in Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry, and laundry time.
My alarm went off at 06:30 so I could get up and do fabulous things with my morning. As it goes, Dani had to threaten me to get me out of bed 08:30. What a lass. Our twin beds are situated awkwardly close together in the suite (about four inches are separating them), so I’m just relieved that she didn’t decide to whale flop on me as she did in Kinsale. That was terrifying.
We went and grabbed breakfast and then drove for Muckross house. Our route took us onto the Ring of Kerry between Killarney and the house, where I drove crazily off the side of the road to take pictures. This happened many times. Dani never got used to it, although Seamus O’Toole the Wonder Golf took it like a champ.
Seamus O’Toole posing
I have also decided that Irish drivers are either fearless or completely mad. Some of the speed limits on these narrow, windy backroads with blind curves are 100kph (about 60mph). I wouldn’t even be brave enough to take these at 80kph (about 40mph), but the locals go careening about without a care. And this, mind you, is coming from a woman who typically drives around like her butt is on fire.
We finally got to the Muckross house, which may have been the most tourist-trappy of the places we visited so far. I don’t know why I feel that way, maybe because the grounds were altered so much to allow for a bunch of people, they had a “heritage farm” and carriage rides. Or perhaps I was just cranky. Any of those is a viable possibility. We had a tour of the 19th-century house scheduled, but Dani was disappointed in the fact that you were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the house. I thought the house was neat and all, mainly because it had like eighty bajillion chimneys jutting off the roof. It was seriously that many, I counted. The house had a charming view, though.
I guess Queen Victoria stayed there for two days once. (the one who was afraid of fire, being poisoned, and wore mourning clothes for the last forty years of her life after Prince Albert died suddenly.) Apparently, the family that originally owned the house pretty much bankrupted themselves trying to woo the Queen into granting them a title. Their plan failed spectacularly. What’s that saying about betting all your money on one horse (or whatever it is)?
After Muckross, we continued around the Ring. I was excited to see all the pretty landscapes, but Dani ended up feeling carsick (but no blowing chunks, thank goodness) and wasn’t feeling it. Poor dear. I, on the other hand, was excited enough for the both of us, and then some.
When we were hungry for lunch, we stopped at some place called The Red Fox. Next to it was a Kerry Bog museum that we checked out after eating. The museum grounds had Kerry Bog ponies, which were critically endangered in the 1980s but saved almost singlehandedly by an older gentleman whose name now escapes me. They were super cute and looked a lot like Shetland Ponies except not as hairy.
There were also some restored cottages from the 18th century on the property. They were quite a bit roomier than I expected! I just had to watch my head as the doorways into the cottages were a bit low. Dani and I both agreed that we would be willing to live in one of the cottages when we get old and gray and senile. Or when we decided this adulting thing is no longer worth it and rage quit on life.
We drove around some more, and I found one of many picturesque sea strands down sketchy side roads to explore. Being a child of the Atlantic, gallivanting off toward the ocean made me super happy.
Yay ocean! Yay pretty views! I’m pretty sure Dani wanted to kill me at multiple points in our journey.
The weather started gray and overcast, became sunny for a bit, and then was dreary and damp and kind of awesome after all the sunshine we’d been having. At times there was cool fog/mist on the mountaintops that made for some fun pictures. We even got rained on! We were both excited to experience some “typical” Irish weather finally.
I think my favorite stop of the day’s adventure was at the Derrynane sea strand. It was windy, but not storming yet (although at every beach we explored people were swimming). See, the Irish might be a little bonkers. Or just made of much tougher stuff than I am. The beach itself was beautiful, featuring an abandoned abbey jutting off one end of the beach and several large boulders resting in the water, the tops of which were covered in seagrass even though the rocks themselves were no longer part of the shoreline.
Being the person I am, I had to climb out as far as I could on the rocks to the point where I was pretty much standing right over the ocean. The sea air was clean and super refreshing, not a fishy smell to be found. The sound of the waves crashing at my feet and the slight sea spray in my face drowned out all other sensations. I felt that, even though I knew a few dozen people were occupying the very beach behind me, I was all alone. It was just me and the ocean.
I think at that moment I finally released my hold on all the stressors of my life that have been dragging me down for months, if only for a few moments. Those moments, however, were incredible. I felt like you do when you see someone who truly loves you-whether a parent, lover, friend, or other family member-sees you again after a long separation. I felt that same feeling you get when you see that look on their face and know that you are loved and accepted. At that same time, there was the feeling you get when you are winding up through an alpine forest, never seeing more than a few yards in front of you, when suddenly the road opens up, and you find yourself overlooking an unadulterated valley. That sense of awe, finding that hidden gem that you feel, at that moment, is for your eyes only. I felt as one with my surroundings and utterly content.
Tears came to my eyes at the pure beauty of my surroundings and the bliss of the moment (no surprise really, I cry at everything). I could have stood there forever, but knew that I needed to return to the car. I will try to hold that feeling within me, and will probably end up chasing it for the rest of my life. I have a feeling that there will be a backpacking trip along the Kerry Way in my future.
We returned to Kenmare, found a laundromat, and did some much-needed laundry. However, *rant alert* I could believe that it cost FIVE BLOODY EUROS to run the washing machine! And then three more Euros to run the dryer! Per load! And our clothes weren’t even thoroughly dry! We spent almost twenty Euros washing and drying two loads of laundry! What a racket! *end of rant*
After that, we returned to the hotel for our last night in Kenmare. It’s off to Ashford Castle in Cong tomorrow.
The day’s agenda: massages, horseback riding, Kenmare
We had a pretty lazy start to the day, waking up around eight (the beds here at Sheen Falls Lodge are the most comfortable so far) and then grabbing breakfast before getting our massages. Before breakfast, I may have gotten distracted by the beautiful view from our room. It also looked like we were going to have another brilliantly sunny day to enjoy!
I also may have thought Dani was going to start gnawing on my arm because she woke up with the hanger (hunger+anger). I can understand though…I’ve been known to have my moments when I get hungry.
I was pretty sore from my run yesterday, and the masseuse commented that she could tell I was a runner. She also had a hell of a time trying (and failing) to work the stress knots out of my shoulders. I need a big beefy Swedish masseuse named Sven to smash the crap out of my shoulders, and I’ll be better. The masseuse then made me tea and offered me a robe, which I accepted and declined, respectively. Honey badger don’t got time for relaxing in a robe.
After lunch, we went horseback riding. We were on Irish Cobs, aka Gypsy Vanners. They were a lot of fun! I only took one picture, though.
We are going out to Kenmare for dinner and fun. More updates to come!
The day’s agenda: Charles Fort and Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare
We began the day by roaming around the charming little square of Kinsale. I purchased some wool socks and a family crest pin for friends and then proceeded to leave them on the counter of the store. Thankfully, I remembered about five blocks later, so I retrieved the items successfully. In the words of Dani: “I thought you only had issues with leaving behind food leftovers at restaurants.” Nope…
After we decided to leave Kinsale, we headed toward Charles Fort, which was built by the English in the 17th century and used until 1922, at which point the newly-independent Irish decided to fill the structure with straw and burn it, which took three days. Oh, the Irish. It was declared a national monument by the Irish government and restoration began. Most of the outer ramparts of the structure have undergone restoration (well, it won’t fall in on our heads at least), but there is still quite a ways to go.
Charles Fort is also situated on a bit of land jutting out into the ocean so there were some pretty incredible views.
While perusing the fort, there were also some wild Dani and Miranda sightings. The wild Dani in her natural habitat is a gregarious and outgoing creature that is easily lured into view by the presence of either Cheez-Its or whiskey. Caution, the wild Dani has been known to bite at times. The wild Miranda is a more elusive creature, preferring to creep on people from a distance. However, she can be lured out by the presence of adorable fluffy animals or the smell of fresh coffee. The wild Miranda has been known to have random spazz attacks that result in the flailing of limbs, so it is best to keep a safe distance. Okay, I’m done being weird now (actually that probably isn’t possible).
After Charles Fort, we decided to go on a short walk nearby to see the coves near the fort itself. I was able to climb down some sketchy rocks to get right on the beach. We saw some jellyfish bobbing in the water and could see the floor of the ocean at parts; the water was that clear. It was neat.
After that, we hopped back into Seamus O’Toole and headed for Kenmare, which we were told was situated in the mountains. We opted not to take any windy roads as Dani gets carsick and I don’t like dealing with vomit. Nonetheless, it still ended up being a pretty drive with quite a few of those famous narrow, windy Irish roads. I didn’t crash into anything or run anyone off the road! Little accomplishments.
We stopped for lunch in Ballyvourney at The Mill Inn. The food was delicious, but the service was slow. I have noticed that here in Ireland the waitstaff tend only to bring more drinks, the check, etcetera only when asked. I guess it may just be more laid back, although it has taken some getting used to (patience is not my strongest attribute). Ballyvourney also has a local craft brewery called 9 White Deer, although we didn’t try any of their products.
A quick note on the weather: every single day we have been here we have enjoyed sunny weather The locals, when not commenting on our strong American accents (???) are shocked at the niceness of the weather. I guess Dani and I brought the Colorado sunshine with us. (:
We finally (after getting lost again) found our way to Sheen Falls Lodge, where we will be staying for the next three nights. The Lodge is incredible. We got a complimentary upgrade to a suite, and have a beautiful room. (I am not worthy…seriously. The bathroom has a bidet in it, and I am both intrigued and terrified of it.) The Lodge itself is only 25 years old, built at the site of a 200 something-year-old fishing lodge. We are right on the Sheen River, and there is a waterfall (I was a tad bit skeptical) that we can see and hear from our room.
After getting settled, I decided to go for a run. I asked for a running route and was told to take a particular road, and it was 5-6km long. I figured that would be no big deal. What I didn’t take into account was the number of hills on the said route. Like 34 stories worth of hills. I’ll be feeling that tomorrow…
After dinner, Dani decided to make friends with the bartender and coerce me into being social (Ewww, being social is hard) so I drug myself down to the friendly bar in my pajamas and slippers with my computer so that I could catch up on this blog. Am I classy, or what? It was fun though, and I had another pint of delicious Guinness. I also convinced the bartender to bring me marshmallows and popcorn. And then give me the rest of a peach he was using for a drink. He was a pretty cool dude.
We have massages and horseback riding scheduled for tomorrow. There’s also a lake/river bottom thing on the property that looks low, so I think I may walk across it for funsies. Yay for relaxing!
Ginger count: 6 super gingers and 11 regular gingers
On the agenda: St. Finbarre’s Cathedral, Cork City English markets, Blarney Castle, and Kinsale
So I catapulted my lazy butt out of bed and got up for a run at 05:45 in the morning. The city center was mostly deserted except for a few delivery drivers and two drunk old guys that catcalled me. I ended up passing them twice and was very relieved that they didn’t opt to catcall me twice as I probably would have had to tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine (yes, I know that isn’t safe, but that kind of behavior grates on my nerves).
After I got back to the hotel and showered, I proceeded to have nasty food poisoning (or maybe it was a reaction to all the alcohol consumed previously?) for the next four or so hours. Oh, joy. Dani also informed me of the fact that I was making weird gurgling noises the night before.
While I was laid up in bed contemplating my mortality, Dani went gallivanting to check out the cathedral and market. She said that the cathedral, advertised to be as old as 606, was built in the 19th century as it is currently standing. The ground has been hallowed since 606. Lame. However, Dani met Harvey Wallbanger and his human Timmy in front of the cathedral. Best dog name ever.
After that, she went to the market. It was nothing special. She also went to the pharmacy (a.k.a. chemist) and got me medicine so I would feel better. Gotta love my bestie! Overall our opinion of Cork can be summed up in one word: Meh.
After I rallied because I’m young and fabulous, we decided to drive up to Blarney Castle on our way to Kinsale for the night.
We got very lost trying to find Blarney Castle. You would think it would be hard to miss a castle, be we are indeed the most special snowflakes I know. We finally made it, waited in line with a bunch of confused old people for tickets, and finally made it into the castle!
We decided to go check out one of the Blarney Gardens instead of attempting to get in the line to go up and see the Blarney Stone. The garden had a fairy hollow, witch’s kitchen, witch’s stone, sacrificial altar, and a Druid circle.
After the gardens, Dani decided to attempt the queue. I was late catching up to her in the line only to realize the damn thing was half a mile long and would take at least an hour and a half to reach the foot of the castle. I decided I didn’t feel like waiting and found Dani about four people up from the end to try and convince her to leave to see another part of the property.
Me: “I’m not waiting in this line.”
Dani: “But we have a good spot!”
Me: *looks pointedly at the four people separating her from the end of the line* “WHAT spot??”
Dani: “We’re not last!”
Me: *turns and huffs away*
After we exited the line, Dani and I found horses and donkeys!
After wandering some more, we finally decided to brave the line so Dani could kiss the Blarney Stone (I refrained, because ew) at the top of Blarney Castle. It had some spectacular views!
Dani kissed the Blarney Stone, although I’m not sure she needed the gift of eloquence…After that, we went exploring some more, got lost in the woods, and found a cave. Also, a note on the Blarney Stone: you climb up all these sketchy stairs (although you get to explore the castle and learn about its history on the way up, which I enjoyed) only to come out on top of the castle to an exciting scene. An old dude taking your picture while another dude holds your feet, so you don’t fall out of the side of the castle. And you get to lay on a cushy mat thing. Where’s the danger and intrigue of it all?
After 5 hours at Blarney, we continued our journey to Kinsale where we stayed at Perryville Guesthouse. It was a magnificent building in the center of Kinsale with twenty rooms. There was a lovely concierge from Poland. I didn’t feel like moving Seamus to designated parking, and he offered to drive him for us. Yay!
We had delicious seafood at a restaurant called Fishy Fishy right on the pier and then had another early night. Dani was snoring by 21:30 while I stayed up and tried (and failed) to catch up on le blog.
Well, I’m done nattering. Make like a Palla’s Cat and floof!