Reflections on Ireland – Part 1

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I’ve done a fair amount of international traveling. Nowhere near the amount that I would like to do, but as much as I could afford… so far. Nothing as exciting as my friend’s backpacking adventures through Europe which you can read on her amazing blog. I have an entire blog dedicated to the time I spent on Semester at Sea sailing around the Mediterranean. I’m going to keep it separate from this blog for various reasons, but there are numerous references to it on here.

After trying to come up with content, I realized that I never actually talked about my experiences in Ireland and Chile. I mentioned them separately… maybe. I can’t remember and I’m not going to go through my whole blog. If you find references, let me know. I probably won’t change what I say here.

This post is about Ireland in case you didn’t get that from the title. I went to Ireland in May of 2008. Conveniently when I turned 21. There is no better way to ring in your 21st when you can already drink in that country 8 days before your birthday.

My mom planned the trip for my brother and I. I’m a twin, remember? My mom used to be a travel agent. Even with this evolution of travel booking, she is still a killer at finding amazing places to stay and great flight deals. I realized during this trip that my mom and I have very different ideas on international vacations.

The motivation behind the trip was to visit the family of a soccer coach from Ireland who had been staying with us 2-4 weeks at a time every July for about 3 years before this. My mom had spoken with his mom and he became part of our international extended family. They offered to host us in their home right outside of Dublin for the first part of our trip. After 2 nights in Dublin, we would drive across the country through the center to Kerry where we rented a house for 4 days. From there we would travel up the coast to Galway and then back over to Dublin for our last night where my mom had a surprise for us.

10 days is the longest I had spent with my mom since moving out of the house at the beginning of the summer of 2006. It was an experience I was not ready for and one that I’m not completely sure that I will volunteer for again. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom to pieces; she is amazing. But there was no way I was mentally prepared to travel with her in a foreign country after my first international experience with a group of students in South America.

I can’t believe I stayed awake as long as I did. I got up the morning we were leaving around 8 am to get ready for class at 10 and finish throwing things into my suitcase. After class that am, I ran home to finish packing. We headed to the airport for our early afternoon flight to JFK. I can’t remember the exact flight times, I just know that we were in NY around 6ish and our flight for London left around 7:45/8. The sun set about 1/2 hour into our journey. The sun came back up 4 hours later. I did not sleep. A new day had arrived so soon! I can’t sleep on planes.

Sunrise from the plane

We arrived in London around 9am and our flight to Dublin was delayed. We were all exhausted by this point. My brother and mom both managed to sleep for most of the trans-Atlantic flight, but I was still wide awake. We hopped on our plane and headed off to Dublin to meet our friend Ro and his brother who were meeting us at the airport.

And then we picked up our car. And then my mom had to drive in Ireland. On the wrong side of the road. In a metro area.

My mom and brother immediately passed out after some tea and greetings. Eager to fill my time in Ireland with less sleep and more play, I headed off to a St Patrick’s Athletic F.C. match. Why was I not tired! Later that evening we headed out with Ro and his brother to a local pub and just had a few drinks. My mom went out with Ros mom and we got a text some time later

idontknowifilikeguinessbutim goingtohaveanotherto makesure. imhungryweregettingchipswantsome.

What?

I’ve never had more starchy carbo loaded foods in one meal. Apparently the thing to do with chips is to take a slice of bread or two, pile on the butter, and then make a chip sandwich with it. Nothing but bread, butter, and chips. I tried it and my arteries were very unhappy, but my taste buds weren’t too angry about it. Not something I would do again, I don’t think.

The next day Ros mom and Dad showed us around Dublin. Its such a beautiful city. Unfortunately we didn’t have too much time to experience or explore. Well as much as I would have liked. I didn’t have a chance to wander. To talk to people and see the city from a non-tourist angle; to see it as a traveler. We rushed around the city until my mom and Ros parents were tired.

Later that evening, we gathered Ros friend and headed into town to check out the nightlife. It was an experience! I met someone from Scandanavia and made a fool of myself in my silly cider induced state to confuse it with Serbia. To this day, I am ashamed of this mistake. I, someone obsessed with the world, confused two very different parts of Europe.

The next morning we headed out in our little adorable car across the country, stopping at the Rock of Cashel to take a look around. Ireland is such a beautiful country. We were very luck with our weather. The first two days were a little damp, but from then on out, it was blue skies and sun.

View from the top of Cashel

The original plan was to drive down to Waterford and then to the small town of Waterville where the house we were renting was, however, we just drove straight through the countryside to Killarney and then off to Waterville. I can’t remember how long the drive took. I looked it up – it says 4 hours and 18 minutes, but we went a different route so I would say driving time was about 5 hours, maybe just a little over. It’s crazy to think that you can drive almost the entire way across a country in the same amount of time it takes to drive across Pennsylvania.

The house my mom found was adorable. It was down this narrow road (ok all roads are narrow) near the ocean. The floors were heated. The shower was massive. It had 4 bedrooms – two of which had two twin beds and then two had king size beds. Everything was new. My brother was able to fish from the shore and my mom and I sat with wine and watched. The fish he caught were delicious. I’m a major advocate of being able to cook your own meals while you’re traveling. We would rent houses on the outer banks when I was younger and again my family would fish for our meals and just make grocery store runs. It’s a great way to keep costs down and to control what you’re eating. I love fish.

Brother dearest fishing for dinner

We had plans for each of the days we stayed at the house. It was home base. This way we didn’t have to sleep in a hotel every night. We didn’t have to root around our suitcases in the morning and repack them over and over again. The first day was our Ring of Kerry trip. We took the famous route along the Peninsula to Kenmare.

We drove for hours that day and visited some interesting sites such as one of the largest stone circles in Ireland. It is just that – a ring of rocks.
The next day we had big plans. BUT my brother wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home, so my mom and I hopped in the car and headed around the Dingle Peninsula. We drove for 6 hours from our little house around the coast through Dingle and did the loop along the coast and then back toward Dingle from a little past Ballyferriter. This 6 hours did not include the trip back that we would have to make. We didn’t think this one through.

The Dingle peninsula, in my opinion, outshone the Ring of Kerry. It might have been because the weather was better that day, but I think it really is just that more stunning. It is less well known, so there are less tourists, but the views are just as breathtaking if not more so.

Dingle Harbor
Outside the potato famine house

We explored some beaches. Stopped at some interesting sites and overall just took in the general emerald green splendor that is Ireland. Somehow we found Conor Pass.

I turned around from looking at the view to find this guy looking at us over our car.

We decided that we did not under any circumstances want to attempt to drive the entire way back around the peninsula. I grabbed the map from my mom and looked at it. I looked up and looked at where we were on the map. We were approaching an unmarked road.

“Mom, Turn right NOW”

So she turned without knowing where we were going. She didn’t believe me. I told her I knew what I was doing. I was sure I knew what we were doing. The map just showed a line from where we were toward where we wanted to be – Waterville. No label. Just a road. The road had no guard rails and went straight up and over the hills in the inland of Ireland. It was a one lane road with pull offs for when you meet someone coming in the opposite direction. We ran into a truck going the same was as us once we reached a crossroads.

He told us we were on our way in the right direction and to follow him!

I got us home in under 3 hours.

To be continued…

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on Ireland – Part 1

    storiesbywilliams said:
    May 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Ahhhh, Ireland! Have you ever been to Galicia province in Spain? I am told that its as close as one can get to Irish culture and geography without actually going there.

      paperballpotluck responded:
      May 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      I have not! I’ve only been to extremely southern Spain – Cadiz! But will add that province to my list of places to see!

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