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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Our Grand Irish Adventure

Welcome back! Sorry for the long blog drought...we've been very busy, above and beyond the fabulous trip we took to Ireland!

Since my last post (May 22 - sorry, again) one of the chicks launched her farm-to-table tour of Italy, and the other has been looking for a job (bites, but no offers yet).

On May 24, we took Annalisse to Toronto for her flight to Pisa by way of Dublin. All her travel went off without a hitch, and she began her intense two week study abroad of the Mediterranean Diet. She had a wonderful time seeing how food was grown, visiting organic farms, working with bees to make honey, making pasta, wine, cheese and bread, and enjoying "slow food" meals that sometimes lasted up to three hours. The group ended in Florence, but spent much time staying and working at farms in between. She said the trip was amazing, and would love to live there (we hear that a lot from folks who visit Italy!) if it weren't for the language barrier. Her trip was capped off with a food tour of Florence hosted by an SU grad who has lived in Italy for 20 years. During her time there she decided she would try gluten again, and has been very successful with it (so far, anyway). The difference probably has to do with how highly processed American flour is. All in all, through, she's pretty happy that she can take baby steps toward eating wheat products again.

On Monday, June 6, Mark, Cam and I headed to Toronto for our midnight flight to Dublin. All went well, and we landed in Dublin around 11:30am (Tuesday). After we made our way through customs and got our luggage, we waited around another couple of hours until Annalisse arrived from Florence around 2:45pm. When we connected with her, we hopped city bus #16 and took the 45 minute drive to the street near our apartment, where our Airbnb host, Paul, met us. We settled in and set off to explore the city for the next two days, taking in all the "must sees" like Trinity College/Book of Kells, Christchurch, Temple Bar and the winding, charming streets with brightly colored row buildings with flower boxes.

On Thursday, we took a taxi back to the airport where we picked up our rental car and headed south to Cork. Of course driving on the left side of the road (or, as we Americans refer to it: the "wrong" side) is confusing, but it wasn't as bad as traversing the VERY narrow country roads we encountered. More than once I thought to myself: so this is how it ends? It was very scary - narrow, winding roads, no road shoulder tall hedges on either side (you feel really boxed in), and cars whizzing by you at 80-100km per hour. Soooooo stressful - but worth it!

We stayed about 30 minutes away from Cork in a thatched roof cottage built before 1800, which was really cute (and a little buggy, as old, damp cottages will be), but in retrospect, as fun as it was to stay in a cottage in the country, we spent a lot of time going back and forth to Cork so it might have made more sense to stay right in Cork.

Once in Cork, we connected with Annalisse's friend Eve, who lives about 20 minutes away in Carrigaline. It was so wonderful seeing Eve and meeting her family! Annalisse was able to spend the evening with her Irish friends from the Carrigaline/Fairport exchange three years ago, and was also glad she was now old enough to drink. Although she's not one to overdo it...usually two glasses of wine is her limit and she doesn't like beer or mixed drinks. For her, it was just great to see them all again.

While in the south, we traveled to Cobh and Kinsale, and spent the day at Blarney Castle (Cam was the only one to kiss the Blarney stone), which was absolutely beautiful and tons of fun. Cobh (pronounced "Cove" and formerly known as Queenstown) was the last stop for the Titanic and was also the village where the survivors and those who perished on the Lusitania were brought. As a town, it's seen a lot of heartache. One hundred twenty three Cobh passengers boarded the Titanic, and most of them were third class, with just 44 surviving. Kinsale is another seaside village, and a little more upscale. Both were very cute.

On Sunday morning we set out early traveling North West to the Cliffs of Moher. It took a little over three hours to get there from Cork, and when we arrived we started out on the path toward the watchtower, which, believe me, is farther away than it looks!! The distance there an back was around 6km, but what amazing sights!! We set off back to Dublin around 2:30pm for the final leg of our trip.

On Monday, we went to the Guinness Storehouse which is basically a Guinness Museum with free beer at the end. That was very cool. Then, in the evening we took a Haunted History Walking Tour, which has sort of become our tradition on vacations ~ being more about history than ghosts. We finished off our vacation and headed to the airport around 10am on Tuesday for the flight back to Toronto.

To sum it up:

Liked/Loved about Ireland
  • Booking Airbnbs - they were cheaper than booking a hotel, gave us a lot of space and had a washer/dryer
  • The food was amazing!
  • It didn't get dark until after 10pm
  • The people were super friendly
  • All areas were very walkable
  • Lush, lush green
  • Manageable distance/flight
  • The amazingly old structures
  • The ruins everywhere
  • That it was invaded by vikings and they had a lot of influence on the culture
  • Scones!
  • Where we traveled it was near the Atlantic Ocean. It was pretty cool thinking that North America was on the other side.
Did not like/love about Ireland
  • THE DRIVING, mostly as it pertains to country roads
  • The parking (very very very narrow spots)
  • The parking fees
  • The weather (we actually had very nice weather in general, but it didn't really get above 70 and was cloudy a lot of the time, and rained a few times
  • The smoking
  • Dublin was pretty dirty, lots of beggars. With its industrial past, it looks pretty downtrodden in general, but definitely has areas of charm.
  • Lots of graffiti and trash all around
All in all, Ireland was a wonderful first foray (for Mark and I) to Europe, for what we hope will be many trips in the future.

Next up: Italy (someday soon, we hope)! Until then, enjoy pix of our trip!

A beautiful alley way in Cork 
The Bakers in Kinsale
Kinsale Great Blue Heron
Blarney Castle 
Blarney House on the grounds of Blarney Castle - it's still a family home open to tourists in the summer 
The view from below - kissing the Blarney stone
Swag 
Cliffs of Moher - look closely at the last cliff o see the tower. Approx. 3km out to it. 
The other, closer, tower 
Making friends with the locals
Meeeeee 
Cairns

Our free beers. Annalisse took about four sips..

Dublin Castle in the center of Dublin
St. Audoen's Church - the oldest medieval church in Dublin. Supposedly the most haunted site in Dublin.
Cliffs of Moher
St. Audoen's Church

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