Wanderlust: Ireland, Galway

Finally, I come to the end of my travel log from Ireland, 2017. The trip itself only lasted one week, but the experience will stay with me for a lifetime. Our last stop on the tour was Galway, a harbour city on the west coast of the country.

By the time our group arrived in Galway, I was exhausted. My new friends and I took the time to simply stroll along the harbour and enjoy the scenery. At night, there is a lively bar scene for the young and young at heart.

It’s a colorful, but relaxed environment as we walked through Shop Street checking out the local wares and restaurants. We even managed to squeeze our way through a bar packed with football fans screaming over a soccer match on the television that night.

We stayed in Eyre Square at Kinlay Hostel. It was my first ever experience with a hostel, and it wasn’t terrible, but after the great hotels we’d stayed in throughout the rest of the trip, it was certainly different.

I didn’t so much mind the sleeping accommodations. We were six in a room with three sets of bunk beds. The top bunks were a bit high and close to the ceiling, so I had to duck my head to climb up and couldn’t sit up, but we were really only there to sleep, so no big deal.

I think the worst part of this hostel experience for me was the bathroom. It was only the six of us sharing our bathroom, but its construction was nothing I’d ever seen before, and having traveled a little in Europe, I’ve seen some strange bathrooms. This one had one level floor, with no barrier or separation between the toilet and the shower, which meant when you bathed, water got all over the floor. So if someone needed to use the toilet after you got out of the shower, they had to get their feet wet. It was a little gross. But I guess that’s part of the travel experience, is to be a bit uncomfortable sometimes.

After the whirlwind Grand Tour of Ireland that EF Ultimate Break offered, I was glad to have a low-key night, enjoying the sights of beautiful Galway with my new friends.

Though I didn’t get to experience them myself, the Salthill Promenade is a walk I’d like to take next time I’m in Ireland. Yes, I definitely want to go back and catch all that I missed the first time around.

Have any of you been to Galway? What were your impressions? Let me know in the comments! And check out the rest of my travel adventures here.

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Wanderlust: Ireland, Aran Islands and Dún Aonghasa

We’re coming close to the end of my adventures in Ireland from 2017. The next to last place we visited on this trip were the Aran Islands and Dun Aonghasa (pronounced Don Angus, if my guide is to be believed).

First came the early morning ferry ride across a glorious blue and cold sea and sky.

But the true stunner was the sight at the top of the old fort Dun Aonghasa. Yes, another set of cliffs, which Ireland is rife with. But there’s a reason tourists like myself go for the view. Nothing humbles you more than staring straight down into the sea and rocks, knowing these structures have been around thousands of years before you, and that they’ll continue existing thousands of years long past your passing.

It’s an invigorating little hike up a rocky path to make it to the windy top of the fort. I recommend bringing those sturdy hiking boots you used for the Cliffs of Moher for this site as well.

During this part of the trip, we were given a bus tour of the island, allowing us to take in the natural sights, as well as the people. The tour guide provided a comprehensive and fascinating history that made this an absolute must when visiting Ireland.

For those who live in or visit many cold places, the Aran Islands offers its famous Irish wool sweaters. These handmade pieces were a bit pricey for my taste (running up to $125 for a top), but if you’re from the New England region or other places with freezing winters, then it might be a worthwhile investment. For a Floridian like me, I just couldn’t justify such a purchase. But be sure, the scarves, sweaters, and other wool goods are beautiful.

Have any of my readers been to the Aran Islands or Dun Aonghasa? What were your impressions? Does anyone want to go visit it now after reading this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

For more of my traveling adventures, look for the tag “wanderlust” on my blog, or visit my Travel page.

Wanderlust: Ireland, Cliffs of Moher

The next stop on my tour of Ireland from 2017 was my favorite part of the whole trip: The Cliffs of Moher. So much so, I even wrote a poem about it.

This was an absolutely breathtaking sight. Though it was cold and rainy as it had been the entire trip, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The muddy trek uphill made it all the more satisfying when I made to the top of cliff number one.

Unfortunately, we only had a couple of hours to spend at the Cliffs, including lunch, so I could only make it up one cliff. The battle to find your footing as you take in the open expanse of ocean next to rock is enough to fill the heart of any wanderer.

There is a line of stones most of the way up that separates you from the edge of the cliffs, so if you’re afraid of heights (or rather of falling), don’t worry. As long as you remain behind that line, you’re safe.

There are open pockets between the stones where you can step out and get a closer look at the edges, but even still there is plenty of space before you reach a dangerous point. Just make sure it’s not too windy the day you go! Some have been known to get blown over when the winds are high enough…

Fun fact: The Cliffs of Moher is where the Cliffs of Insanity scene for the The Princess Bride was filmed. For fans of the classic movie, it’s a real treat to imagine Wesley hanging on for dear life right before your eyes.

Make sure to take a quick detour to O’Brien’s Tower when you’re at the Cliffs. The remains of this observation tower give the final authentic feel of being transported to another time and place altogether.

For more about my trip to Ireland, and other travels, see my previous posts here.

Have any of you traveled to Ireland and seen the Cliffs of Moher? What were your impressions? Let me know in the comments!

Wanderlust: Ireland (Killarney & Ring of Kerry)

The next stop on my tour of Ireland back in March 2017 was the town of Killarney. This was somewhere between a small town and a big city, so, suburb. Strolling through the square at night with my new friends felt like I’d been doing that my whole life.

In the morning, our tour director arranged for horse carriage rides through a nearby park. We bumped along the gravel road right next to the cars driving on the street, locals on their way to their daily lives.

By now, our group was accustomed to the cool grey skies with flurries of drizzles. The cold no longer digs into our bones, at least, for us Floridians. Instead, the sting of the cold air refreshes and wakes us up.

Even out in the suburbs, Ireland proves to never lack any green. The carriage ride took us through a park forest covered in moss and mud, following the gravel path created by modern-day citizens.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Ireland without a visit to another crumbling castle. Fortress remains are scattered throughout the country, making it a land perfect for those who love the fairytale aesthetic.

Even the lake nearby with swans feels like a picture straight out of a Disney movie. There are tourists walking all along the grounds, but I imagine at night it would be emptier, making it prime real estate for a story about a haunting.

The next stop in Killarney is the Red Fox Inn, famous for its Irish coffee. This was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire trip. At 7 a.m., I was served black coffee poured over whiskey, and topped with frothy cream. From the first sip I found myself thinking, “Now this is how you should wake up every morning.” There’s something to be said about sharing an early morning coffee and liquor with a group of strangers who are for the time being your best friends.

As we continued our trek around the Ring of Kerry, we encountered the brightest, bluest, and sunniest day in Ireland, stopping by the beach. It’s not what this Florida girl expected when I was told the beach, but it was beautiful nonetheless. I also took a rock and snuck it through airport security on the trip back (shhh!).

The bus ride around the Ring of Kerry took us through rolling hills of green, well, mountains really. The Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mixed with the brisk Irish weather and gray skies was a sight to behold. The country has so much beautiful scenery to offer, each day in the Emerald Isles made it harder to look forward to my trip back home.

One of the last stops before leaving County Kerry was the Killarney National Park. We only got to spend a couple of hours in the magical forest, but it is a hiker’s dream. Just a few minutes viewing the spectacular Torc Waterfall was enough to inspire a spirit of adventure that leaves me longing for more.

You can get lost along the many roads and countrysides that Ireland has to offer, and never feel aimless. It’s the kind of place that gives new life to the cliche, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

For more posts about my trip to Ireland, see the following links: 1, 2, and 3.

If any of you have ever traveled Ireland, let me know in the comments. What were your favorite highlights? If you haven’t gone, which of these sights do you want to see?

Best Friend Strangers

Read my poem about the joys of travel friendships

The thing about traveling is that
you make temporary best friends
wherever you go. You meet a complete
stranger who overheard you say
you’re from Florida, next thing
you know you’re bonding over
how fucking cold it is in Ireland
for you two. You and your roommate
for the week salivate over parsnips
that seem to come with every meal
and by the time the farewell
dinner rolls around you’re shouting
simultaneously, “Where are the parsnips?”
and laughing at the inside joke.
You all leave and never see each
other again, never speak, but click
like on Facebook. Somehow
still bonded for life. Strangers
yet best friends by this shared experience.

Originally posted here.

Wanderlust: Ireland (Blarney Castle)

The next stop from my trip to Ireland over a year ago was the famous Blarney Castle. No one warned me that kissing the Blarney Stone required some gymnastics. I wasn’t expecting to be held as I bent backwards into a space between walls with no net to catch me if I slipped through. So here’s a fair warning for fellow travelers who might have a bit of a fear of falling from high places.

 

195I’m also bad at climbing steep, narrow stairs of old, which are prevalent in Europe I’m finding. It takes a bit of leg muscle to make the trek up the stairs, but it’s well worth it, if nothing else than just to say you climbed up to the top of a castle. But I thought the views were pretty stellar from so high up.

I felt a great deal of fear, especially since the steps were so slippery with rain and moss. All that kept passing through my mind were images of falling to my death, thinking, This is where they’ll find my body. In an old castle, in Ireland. There were moments I thought of giving up and turning around, but I hadn’t made it that far just to give up before kissing the damn stone.

Besides that, there’s something about fighting against your own pounding heart and gasping breaths in damp, cold stone walls that makes you feel like a heroine out of a novel.

It wasn’t just the castle though that was beautiful. The surrounding grounds with gardens filled with deadly plants made for quite the sight as well. It felt like walking through magic. 225

With nothing but green and brown as far as the eye could see any which way I turned, I half expected fairies to come greet me at any moment, and wisk me away to a revel I’d never return from.

Or perhaps I just felt the call of the Emerald Isles inviting me to stay a bit longer. I admit, the thought had crossed my mind several times throughout this journey.

See more of my Ireland 2017 travels here:

Part 1. Part 2

Stay tuned for the remaining segments from this trip. Let me know in the comments if you’ve visited Blarney Castle or other Irish stops. What did you think?

Where It All Began

where it all began

The road so far
is the same that leads
us back. Back to where you
and I come from, where
your ancestors dwelled.
It’s quiet here
and the people don’t care
that we’re here. They figure
we’re just more tourists
come to see the oddity
that is small town life where
everyone knows each other.
The currency flows back
and forth as everyone buys
local and those shopkeepers
live there, buying from one
another. No such thing as credit
here. We sit in peace after our meal
feeling at home. We have to leave
too soon.

Originally posted here.