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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Lesson in Gaelic & A Toast to the Scots

Our trip to Ireland seems like ages ago and I think the three of us miss the Irish characters.

I told you in my last blog about the Post-it that saved us and the people we met along the way.  Join me again as I tell you about the rest of our trip and the back roads we took to make new friends.

We left the Blarney Stone and headed to Killarney, which is part of the Ring of Kerry.  

After a good nights sleep in a B&B and live Irish music, we were ready for an adventurous day.
We were in search of a waterfall when we ran into a man named Danny and his horse named Molly.
Danny said he had been waiting for us all morning.

They gave us a ride through Killarney National Park.  Danny told us many stories of its history and landscape.

We found the waterfall, Torc Waterfall, at the base of the Torc Mountain.

Danny was shy at first, but warmed-up to us at by the end of our carriage ride.
He was one of our favorite Irish characters.

When we said goodbye to Danny, we headed for the old farm tour in the park.  Sarah and I, the farmer's daughters, stopped to check cows along the way.

I spotted this bench on our trail and wondered who had been here before.  Who had sat on this bench and walked down this path, what did they talk about and how long ago were they there.  Ireland is full of history and a long history, it has to make you wonder. 

 I lost Sarah and Carrie along the way at some point, this wasn't really surprising.  
Apparently they found some dogs to play with on the farm. 
I found more cows and great views and some peace. 

Then I met Brendan at the schoolhouse, a replica of one from the 1930s and 1940s.
He taught me some Gaelic and we talked agriculture in Ireland before the girls arrived.  
We thought about punishing them for being late to class.

Schoolteacher Brendan, continued to give us a Gaelic lesson and taught us the word feirmeoir, farmer.

We stopped for lunch and some Guinness before making our way further into the park. 
This was a beautiful, great stop along the way.

We headed up a mountain where the road was so narrow, it was basically a shoulder.
We all had a few heart attacks running into tour buses and almost hitting the rocks on the side of the mountain.

But when we got to the top, we saw Ladies View.  The view at the top is a scenic point in the Ring of Kerry.  The name derives from the admiration of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting during her 1861 visit to Ireland.  We look like ladies, right?

We were in Killarney for two nights before we headed around the coast to Dingle.
Remember, back roads and random stops are some of the best parts of a trip.

As we were enjoying the coastline, we came upon a small beach.
I drove onto the sand and parked in front of some kids playing a game of beach soccer.

And the views at this stop were amazing.  

I kicked off my shoes, grabbed my camera and headed to the water.
Barefoot on the beach was the only way to go at this stop.

There were more kids playing and enjoying the cool water.

We continued on our drive and came upon this view.  
Again, we had the best weather and sunshine that illuminated God's green earth and his favorite color.

Then we made a treacherous stop at this corner on a cliff.

We parked at what seemed to be a rest stop for a few travelers and decided to stretch our legs.
We climbed this hill for awhile, and because I am so out of shape I forgot to turn around and see the view for a few minutes.  But when I did, this is what we saw!  The picture does not do it justice.

We climbed over a fence and some rock walls to what seemed to be a forbidden part of the trail up this hill which I eventually ended up calling a mountain.

If we would have tripped, this is what we were dealing with.

But the views were amazing.
This edge of Ireland is considered by some as the westernmost point of Europe.  While controversial and others say the honor goes to a place in Portugal, we think it's this place.

As we enjoyed our Irish roots, we were looking west towards America, our home.

So when you go to Dingle, you go Dingling which is exactly what we did all day long.
We made several stops along the Dingle Peninsula and enjoyed historic sites and made new friends.

This is the Gallarus Oratory, one of the early Christian Churches built between the 7th and 12th centuries!

When in Dingle, you also get Murphy's Ice Cream!  It's handmade, the old fashion way, right in Dingle.  
They even have Irish Soda Bread ice cream which was actually really good!

One of our stops in Dingle was a local brewery owned by Paul and his wife.  Paul was kind and told us that when we left Dingle, we needed to drive through the Conor Pass and enjoy the views.  This would save us time on our way to the Cliffs of Moher.

On the only foggy day we went through the Conor Pass, which is the highest mountain pass in Ireland.  Carrie said it reminder her of "Land Before Time" and said a taradactle was going to creep over the mountains and get us.....

Once we were through the scary pass, we headed to the ferry on the River Shannon.  
I have always wanted to drive a car onto a ferry and take it across a river!

As we were about to open the car doors, a semi zoomed past us just a few inches away from our car.  They really make it tight on the ferry!  And we weren't sure where this guy came from either....he didn't have a vehicle.

We eventually climbed our way out of the car and headed to the top of the ferry to enjoy the views.

Carrie waved goodbye to her favorite place, County Kerry.

Our next stop along our route was the Cliffs of Moher.  
It's an overwhelming view. 

When we were in Dingle, our friend at Paul told us to stop and see his friend Billy in Lisdoonvarna.
Lisdoonvarna is home to a matchmaking festival, a historic downtown with a castle a few steps from their roundabout and Billy's Roadside Tavern where the locals come to relax and gossip.

After Billy's we made our way through The Burren, home of the "great rocks" and more scary roads and scenes from "Land Before Time".

Galway was our last city before making our way back to Dublin.
On our way to dinner that night, we heard music coming from this old church.
We stopped in to listen to the choir practicing for their Sunday Services and a charity event the following week.

Galway is full of pubs, restaurants, shops and people.  Every block had live music and sometimes people dancing.  We met interesting characters, yet again, who made us good drinks, good food and pointed us to the best shops.

Galway to Dublin is a two hour drive on a motorway which was good after a 
long week of curvy, scary roads where Jesus was posted.

We returned the car with no dents and no scratches!

After checking into our hotel for our last night, we had to make our way back to the pubs for some local, delicious Guinness one last time.  Our cab driver took us to a street full of pubs with the best Guinness in town.

The people we met that night weren't Irish, they were Scottish.  Characters and the nicest people just the same but they were wearing kilts.  The Irish and the Scots were playing a soccer game the next day and they were all out celebrating, win or lose, they always celebrate.

This guy was our absolute favorite.  He sang, danced and kissed us, "oh you Americans, I love ya!"

So while drinking the Irish Guinness and whiskey, we enjoyed our last night with the Scots.

I would return to Ireland in a heartbeat.  
She's a country full of history, Guinness, whiskey, good food,
 kind people with lots of craic (crack) and character.

Ireland is covered in God's favorite color, green, and incredible views unlike any other.

Thanks for reading and enjoying the views with us!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sláinte to the Dashboard Post-it & Irish Characters

Sláinte!  Cheers!  

I am back to blogging and ready to share about my #ShamrockedHoosiers trip to Ireland 
with my sister, Sarah, and best friend, Carrie.

I told you before I left that God's favorite color is green.  
However, I didn't tell you, or even know, that some of God's favorite people are the Irish.
And no one told me not to ever believe what an Irish man tells you because they are all just crackin' ya (joking you).  

It's my hope that you see some of God's green creation in this blog and that you can hear the kindness in the Irish characters, their concern to make sure we had the time of our lives and their contagious laughs that echo in my head.

Below is a map of the Green Isle with a green line that somewhat represents our travels.  
We were there for 7 full days and nights but it felt like months.  

Three girls, three different sized suitcases and a vague itinerary ended up being a flawless, fun adventure.

We landed in Dublin at 7:30 a.m., freshened up and headed to the Guinness Storehouse.  
I mean who wouldn't want Guinness for breakfast.

Throughout our first full day in Ireland we hopped from one pub to another, 
listening to Irish music and trying to decipher the various Irish accents.

When you go to Ireland, you know you are going to see old, historic things.  
However, until you are there looking at it or sitting in it 
do you realize the magnificent history that you are experiencing.  

The Brazen Head is a pub that was established in 1198.....1198!!!  Think about that! 
There wasn't a whole lot goin' on in 1198.

So you know that green line on the map?  
We didn't ride a bus or go with a tour.  

We rented a car and I drove!  
Let me just say, the right side of the car and left side of the road aren't as bad as they say.  
But the parking, they don't tell you about the parking.  You gotta love the Irish, but they don't care about properly parking and it really messes with your driving.

Oh and they don't have numbers associated with their address.  
One of our B&B's address was "The Rock", literally.

As one of new American friends we met along the trip said, 
"The postman has to know everyone!  Every.Single.Person.  All the McConnells and all the Murphys.
  It's his job to know everyone!"

So I guess if you don't know where you are going in Ireland, ask the postman.

"The Post-it". 
It saved us several times (don't tell my passengers).

I would say besides the parking messing with your head, the turning is a little tricky so why not have a reminder on your dashboard!

Our first real stop in Ireland, besides the pubs, was the House of Waterford Crystal.
Some of my ancestors on my mom's side came from Waterford (maybe this is why I love crystal and fancy things!).

It was nice to see something "American" in the home of my former ancestors who came to America.  
This is a mold for a football trophy.

The tour was really amazing and learning about the craftsmanship was really breathtaking.
The craftsman go through years of training.  Here one is blowing glass for a vase.

The great thing about the tour is that you see the craftsman up close as well. 
This guy was very welcoming, teaching me about the craft of cutting champagne glasses.

He even handed it to us to look at the work closely and said, 
"Eh loves, sorry I don't have any champagne to go in the glass!"  

He was an Irish character we wanted to remember.

On our way out of Waterford, we saw an old man at a roadside stand selling strawberries. 
I slammed on the breaks and veered to the shoulder to buy some.
We learned that we were in County Wexford, home of the best strawberries in all of Ireland!  

They were delicious!

When on an adventure, it's important to remember that back roads on the best roads with some of the best views.

Although the back roads, actually all the roads except the motorways (highways), are scary in Ireland.  When they put Jesus on a "Dangerous Roads Ahead" sign, you should be extra cautious....

And as our friend Carrie soon learned, traveling with two farmer's daughters entails stops to capture photos of cattle and tractors.

When we left Waterford, we really had no idea what was in store for us at our next stop, "The Rock".
Behind this yellow door was one of our favorite characters, Carmel.

Carmel was the owner of our B&B and a great hostess for the evening.  She lived a long, tough but wonderful life as she will tell you with much dramatic detail. The woman has dined with Clint Eastwood, traveled the world, taught fashion at university and is a life learner. She taught us life lessons I can't necessarily share on this blog, let's just say she's my kind of gal.

We could have talked to her for days, our entire trip actually, but we told her we would be back.  
She kissed us and said, "Anytime my darlings!   You are always welcome here!"

Kinsale was a beautiful town where the streets are full of vibrant colors and a slow, peaceful pace.  
It's home to quite possibly the best food in Ireland.

We roamed Kinsale stopping in and out of pubs, shops and even old churches and historic graveyards in the center of town.

Even on a Monday, people were peacefully roaming the streets, not in a rush, and happy to see anyone they encountered.  Again, the Irish, so kind and happy!

The Post Office was a bit busy on a Monday morning, but we were able to stop-in and buy our stamps.

The Thomas Sisters love to write so we wrote many postcards for friends and family back home.
This is Sarah mailing her first international postcard!

Look, even the mailboxes are green!

Our next adventure required us to navigate through the back roads from Kinsale through the windy, city streets of Cork to make it to the Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone!

As we were making our way to the castle to climb the old, stone staircase I saw this elderly couple.
I'm sure they have taken many steps together but it was so precious to see them hold hands to take another one.

When you get to the top of the castle, you have to wait in line.

So it's a perfect time to search for more cows!  They are really everywhere!

Kissing the Blarney Stone is an old tradition dating back more than 200 years. There are many theories and tales behind the stone along with history and tradition.  But the kiss is supposed to bestow the gift of eloquence or as many say, the gift of gab!

The Blarney Castle is nestled on private grounds with gardens, a private home, animals and more on the 60 acres owned by the same family for generations.

This is the private home or mansion you could say.  We luckily were walking by before the last tour of the day.  The family opens their home for tours throughout the year so people can learn about the history of the grounds and meaning behind some of the old Irish traditions.

So I would say our first few days in Ireland were "mighty" and we were ready for some more "grand" times ahead of us full of adventures, crackin' characters and beautiful views.

I'll share the last half of our #ShamrockedHoosiers trip to Ireland again next week!
There are many more adventures and characters to come!