Monday, February 11, 2013

Ireland 2013: Part 3

Mom and I gladly disposed of the rental car in Dublin and got our free shuttle ride back to the airport and then waited and met up with my cousin Kate and bff Vanessa. Ness flew in from Munich and Kate from London. We finally all connected after a bit of confusion and we took a cab to our cool hotel nearby Grafton Street and Trinity College. It was very swank and a big change from our b&b's. Then we went for a walk on Grafton street and found a very lively pub to get some lunch. We stayed there for a long time before going back to Grafton and poking around some shops. We found a nice quiet bar to spend the rest of the night. When we got back to the hotel, Ness and I grabbed some wine in the hotel bar to catch up some more. The next day they were both leaving that afternoon. We went to Bewley's Cafe for breakfast and really enjoyed our croissants and hot beverages. Then we were able to go to St. Stephen's Green. Even though the weather was unpleasant we really enjoyed strolling through. We saw an intense swan chase too! Then we stopped for more coffee to warm up and then poked into the National Gallery for a bit. Then we grabbed lunch by the hotel. I really enjoyed my food but the service was terrible. I had to yell at them to get a move on. Then we had to say our goodbyes to Ness and Kate. They shared a cab to the airport. We were sad to see them go but so grateful we could all spend time together. I don't fully remember how we spent the rest of the day but I think we went to their archaeology museum which was really, really cool. I had very low expectations and it blew my mind. Great for a rainy day! Not only was the building beautiful, the exhibits were so cool. We both were really impressed with the bog people exhibits which showed pretty intact remains of people found in bogs. Gross, but cool! Then I think we hit up some shops before returning to the hotel. Then we just grabbed dinner there that night and I think we watched really funny Lifetime like movies the rest of the night. The next day was our last full day in Dublin so we had big plans. We went back to their National Gallery and really enjoyed the galleries and also tore it up in their gift shop. We also went to Trinity College's art gallery which was very unique. We went into the Trinity bookstore and walked on their quad too. We bought more Butler's chocolate and then we went back to Bewley's for lunch. They were supposed to have a mini play but no one knew what we were talking about so we just enjoyed lunch. Then we went back to the hotel to dispose all our purchases and relax for a bit. Then we walked to the castle and did a tour which was great! We really loved our guide and enjoyed the tour a lot. He went over his time so we missed the opportunity to get into one of the cathedrals we wanted but we did get to go to St. Patrick's which was a great experience! It was a bit of a hike but definitely worth it. We really enjoyed seeing it and we got to catch part of the choir performing! We snuck out before they officially started and grabbed dinner at a place called the Queen of Tarts. boy was it delicious! Such a great way to end the trip. The next day we went back to Bewleys for a quick breakfast and then we took a shuttle to the airport. Overall it was quite an adventure and a wonderful time! I'm so lucky to have had the opportunity to go to Ireland with my mom!

Ireland 2012: Part 2

Mom and I decided on Adare on a whim and we're so glad we did! We drove into the quaint village and immediately found parking easily. We stopped by the visitor center for a map of the town and we first went to the Trinitarian Priory which was a beautiful church. Across the street were adorable thatched cottages. We tried to follow their map to see some other sites but we got a bit confused so we walked to their visitors center and shopped like crazy! Who knew that their little visitor center would have such good items?! Mom found a great scarf for my aunt, a scarf for herself, a keychain for my cousin Carrie and hat for dad. I found Irish wool socks and I splurged on a gorgeous wool blanket. We also found some Fitzpatrick items like postcards and stickers. Then we cruised through their beautiful park and took a walk to try to see the castle but we stumbled upon a creepy abandoned monastery instead! It was still one of my favorite stops the whole trip! Then we drove on to Limerick. We visited their art museum which had an incredible Chinese photography exhibit from the late 1800s. I really loved it! We admired King John's Castle from afar and then we went to St. Mary's Cathedral. We saw a protest along the way! We found a nice gourmet sandwich shop on the way and got some food to go. Then we journeyed to Lough Gur to try to find our B&B. This was another one without an address. But luckily because we got there before dark, we were able to ask a woman where to go and she pointed us in the right direction and we arrived safely and easily. This was by far the best B&B of the whole trip! It's called the Desmond Lodge and it overlooks the stunningly beautiful Lough Gur. Bridget was the most delightful host and she gave us each our own rooms because she didn't have any other tenants. The whole house was filled with candles and was just so nice and charming. She sat and chatted with us for awhile but we also got some time to relax by the fire, catch up on wifi and read. Mom and I ate our awesome sandwiches for dinner and then turned in early. I was thrilled because she had cable and I got to watch Homeland and email Rob while watching it! The next morning Bridget made us a wonderful breakfast with local sausages and I probably also had porridge. Then we talked and talked and talked with her about who knows what! She was too cute and we loved our time visiting with her and she totally loved mom. After we said our goodbyes we checked out the New Church ruins that was built in the 15th century. I got to pet a cute pony on the way to an old tomb close by which made me happy! Then we went to Lough Gur and took a nice long walk around the perimeter and took in the beautiful site. Then we drove to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park which is by far the biggest disappointment of the whole trip. It is like a theme park but a ton of stuff was closed because they were decorating for Christmas which made me so mad! But then we found a bunch of animals and I was happy again. Most importantly we found a mini donkey and mini horse. How can that not make everyone's day better!?? We also saw Irish wolf hounds, red deer, a giant rooster and sheep. We went to the Castle which was done very differently than all the others we'd seen because they decorated it how it would have been done at the time. It was cool to see! Then we drove to Nenagh which is where my mom was told her family is from. We arrived at the Willowbrook Inn which was really easy to find and really nice inside. The owners recommended a spot for dinner that was also pretty easy to find. We both got burgers and enjoyed a long leisurely dinner next to the fireplace. The next day we checked out their Heritage Center to try to find more information and they told us that mom's family were "mountain people" and were probably from Killoscully. We enjoyed checking out their exhibits and then walking to see St. Mary's and their Castle even though the castle was under construction. It's a really cute city center. Then we drove to Galway which was one of our favorite parts of the whole trip! We checked into another great b&b, The Marless House in Salthill just outside of the city. The owner gave us great directions and a map to get to the city center. We parked the car and did lots of sightseeing. First we saw the Spanish Arch - we actually had an encounter with a flasher!!! who ended up in my photo with his pants down. We had the giggles after that for a long time! After we got a PG photo we went to their museum which was fantastic! It was free and had wonderful exhibits. Then we grabbed some treats at a little spot across from the museum and we bought some jams and porridge to bring home. Then we walked to their big park and found a Christmas Market! We just poked around a bit there and then did some shopping on Quay Street. We found a few cute shops and I bought some cards and then we went to the famous and official Claddagh Ring shop, Thomas Dillons and I bought a beautiful claddagh necklace. Then we went to McDonough's, the famous fish and chips stop for dinner. Mom had the fish and chips and I had super delicious salmon. Then we went to a bar and caught really fantastic live music! We were both so happy! The next day we made the journey through the fog to the Cliffs of Moher. We passed the Dunguaire Castle and stopped to take some photos and also at a few other vistas along the way. There was also a cow traffic jam :) We finally made it and I was so mad because the cliffs were completely fogged over! We spent some time in their fabulous exhibit in the welcome center and when we came out, the fog had cleared! It was so gorgeous and it was totally worth the long drive! We captured lots of photos and memories before having a late lunch in their cafe. Then we drove back to Galway and made a stop at the Galway Aquarium. There was practically no one there so we got to get a special tour from one of the staff members. It was a really cool aquarium and very different from ours so I'm glad we could go! Then we drove to the city center and we were looking for a cafe to kill some time and plan our next stop in Dublin but we had a really hard time finding one! Finally we found a nice one above a market - so weird! I got hot chocolate and a giant dessert - always good to have dessert before dinner. All that sugar upset my stomach so I couldn't eat dinner. Mom tried to order a sandwich in the deli in the store and they were closed so then we were out looking for another option. We ended up back at McDonough's and mom got some fried chicken to go. She said it really hit the spot! The next day we walked along the Galway bay. It was so pretty! We saw people swimming though and it was so cold! We were sad to say goodbye to Galway, but it was time to head to Dublin to return the car (YAY!) and meet up with my bff, Vanessa and cousin, Kate! More on Dublin later!