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.

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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!

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?

Wanderlust: Ireland (Glendalough)

This is part 2 of a mini series I’m writing for my trip to Ireland in March 2017. See the first post here.

Day trip to Glendalough

One of the three days spent in Dublin consisted of a day trip to Glendalough, famous for being featured in P.S., I Love You (which yes, we did watch on the bus ride over; delighful movie). It was just such a beautiful, scenic drive through Ireland’s countryside. The views were postcard picture perfect, with drying greens and soft browns surrounding us and calm, black waters in the distance. The cool grey sky added to the cozy atmosphere of a day of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As we drove into the area, we saw sheep scattered all over the land, their wool (is it wool when it’s still on the sheep and not spun into fabric?) dyed so that farmers knew which were which.

 

108The walk along the path was peaceful and quiet save for our group’s chatter. Nothing spectacular or extraordinary happened that day, except for walking through Ireland’s natural wonders with a bunch of strangers, and I found something beautiful in that simplicity.

We walked for what felt like miles to finish at the lake’s restaurant, where we encountered a pretty bridge over the water. Like I said, postcard picture perfect. 93

A day is not enough to take in the wonderful feeling of walking the trails of another land. I wish I’d been able to stay just a little longer, to sit at the lake’s edge for an hour or two, breathing in the crisp air with pen and paper in hand as I valiantly struggled to put into words what was right before my eyes. It’s just a lake after all. The land of two lakes in fact. So why is it that I just felt so struck by the calm waters and quiet surrounding trees and brush? Why did I bask in this experience with strangers I’d just met the day before but already felt like we were sharing a moment of creation? I think this is really what I love about traveling. It’s sharing in the mundane with new people and the ordinary becoming incredible.

Stay tuned for part 3/? of the Wanderlust Ireland series. In the meantime, check out more travel posts here. And if you’ve ever been to Ireland, let me know in the comments what you thought. What was your impression of the country?

To the Top of the World

top of the world poem

Blue to the front
and green to the back.
Nothing but mountain and sky
for miles above and below.
Sitting in a plastic box, miles
above the surface, life stands
still. It’s just an expanse all around
and nothing else matters.
I don’t feel small or insignificant
or afraid. I just feel a part of it
forever expanding, my lungs
feebly mimicking the experience
in a way the human mind
comprehends. I see the top
where sky meets earth, still
unable to see where one begins
and the other ends. The lines
just bleed and my veins try
to mirror the phenomenon.
But we can’t.

Originally shared on my Instagram.

Wanderlust: Ireland (Dublin)

Dublin
Day 1 in Dublin

Over a year and a half ago I finally got to visit Ireland, a country I’d been dying to see for as long as I can remember. There’s always been something about the Emerald Isles that called out to me. Maybe it was the myths and folklore. Maybe it was the haunting Celtic music. Maybe it was just the origins of my name. Whatever it may be, I wanted to see it, and so I did.

I went on a 5-day trip through EF College Break (technically 7, but 2 days were travel). We hit the ground running, as we immediately set off to explore Dublin soon after getting off the plane and leaving our luggage at the hotel (we couldn’t check in yet). Our tour guide Fab, who was amazing, helped us get our bearings so that we could wander off solo but still find our way back to our accommodations.

That first day we stuck together, a group of strangers who had just met but needed one another to make sure we didn’t get lost and left behind. Walking the brick alleys and making our way into Temple Bar to warm up with a pint, I soon felt clicking submit on that online trip application was the best decision I’d ever made.

By the next day, we all felt pretty confident in our abilities to navigate this foreign city, and all went our separate ways or in smaller groups. I started out the day with a roommate to explore Dublin Castle, and from there wandered the Irish city on my own, looking for the Writer’s Museum. I got lost along the way a few times, but I felt so sure of myself that I had no problem consulting the map and asking complete strangers which way to go. I definitely wandered into a suspect neighborhood and was quickly told to get out immediately, but no harm came to me.

I finally found the museum and spent a couple of hours there before making my way back to see a popular library as well. Yes, I’m that nerd who goes abroad to look at other countries book spaces. Truthfully though, none of it was about the destinations. Though I had a great time seeing castles, museums, and libraries, I felt more excited by the walking. It was just a city after all, not much different from New York in fact. Dublin also had construction sites blocking the walkways and smelly alleyways.

That’s really my favorite thing about traveling. It’s just walking among the locals, observing the natives of the land, listening to their voices and stories as they walk around me, ignoring my existence. I bask in the normalcy of life when I’m in a completely different country.

During one of my many bouts of getting lost, I realized it was time for lunch and stopped in at the first cafe I found. I didn’t try to act like a local, because I knew how obvious it was that I was American (the accent kind of gives it away). Instead I asked, “What do you recommend?” The woman behind the register named the soup of the day (leek and potato, which I’d never had and thought only existed in Neopets) with brown bread (again, something new to me). It sounded good though, and it was cold outside, so soup wasn’t a bad choice. She served me and I sat down to charge my phone and get Wi-Fi while I ate.

For the record, leek and potato soup is delicious. And with a side of brown bread with Irish butter, absolutely divine. Such simple fare, but so damn good. I took my time with my lunch and happily ate while looking around the restaurant and out the window. Everyone was so normal, and I was enthralled.

I finally started making my way back at the time I figured the sun would be going down. I couldn’t really tell, as it’s always grey in Ireland. But as confident as I was in my newfound ability to travel a foreign country on my own, and as friendly as the people had been thus far, I didn’t want to get stuck on my own at night in the city. When I finally arrived back at the hotel, my feet aching and sore, and my body on the verge of collapse, I consulted my phone to see how much I’d walked that day. Five miles to and five miles from (not including the rerouting that took place from getting lost). So approximately 10 miles total. I’d never walked so much in my life. I was exhausted but it was well worth it.

I’ve decided to break this post up into multiple parts, as I feel I can talk for days about the trip I had over a year ago. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, have you been to Dublin, Ireland? If so, what was your favorite thing? Let me know in the comments!

For more wanderlust posts, click here.