Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ireland...The Sequel...except better than sequels, because they suck.

 As promised, here is the second part of my trip to beautiful Ireland. (If you didn't already get to see photos from the first few days in Ireland, click here.) 

After being a little disappointed by Dublin, Ireland had some catching up to do to meet my expectations. I did love the village of Howth, but I was still hoping for a miracle, some phenomenal adventure that would make Ireland compare to Scotland. As a little kid, I was always sort of obsessed with leprechauns and St. Patrick's day. I imagined dancing faeries and the like. I was lucky enough to have an awesome mom that turned every little holiday into a big event. She'd make green shamrock pancakes and talk in an Irish accent all day. I would set out leprechaun traps the night before, and when my sister was old enough, I showed her how to make them. My guess is that this sort of instilled in me a love for the country that inspired this fantastic holiday. I still do believe that Ireland holds magic.

 So the three of us girls booked a day tour of the Irish countryside. The tour advertised a trip to a family farm in the Burren, a trip through the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Portal Tomb. It was all that I wanted and more. It was so strikingly, wildly, magically beautiful. It lived up to and past my expectations. I don't really know how to describe that moment when you've wanted something so badly for so long, and when you finally get it, it's better than you ever expected. But if that's ever happened to you, you'll know what I mean. Get ready to see a lot of green.

We took a bus from Dublin to Galway, then rode down little winding roads until we pulled up in front of just a normal looking house. "Cottage" if you want to be quaint. So there we were starting our tour off at some Irish family's farm! It was so cute, nestled between the rocky hills of the Burren. All the mountains in the area are privately owned, so in order to go anywhere, you have to have the property owner take you. So the son of the family took our tour group on a hike up the hills, past their cows and sheep (he fed a baby lamb for us, it was so stinkin cute). 

He showed us a "fairy tree" where you can tie your problems onto it, and leave them there forever. Then he made us lie down in the grass and lay absolutely quiet for a  minute. We could hear the wind rustling along the mountains and through the grass. Getting up, expecting some profound statement after that profound moment, he just told us, "Now you know what Burren cows feel like." Unfortunately, I didn't  see any fairy circles or leprechauns But from the top of the farm, I could see the coast, the ruins of an old Abbey, and some ruins of the "seven churches" (of which there were only ever four. ) 

In case you were wondering what The Burren is, it's characterized by the rocky mountains (see below). A mystical, lonely, yet calm, peaceful, friendly place.

After the hike around the farm, we were treated (although we paid for it) to Irish coffee and maybe the most delicious apple pie I've ever eaten. Our tour guide (aka family son) even sang some traditional Irish songs for us and taught us the chorus. It was great fun. Ladies, if you're wondering: get yourself a man with a cute Irish accent who sings and feeds baby sheep and believes in faeries. 

From the farm, we got back on the bus and made a pit-stop closer to the coast to admire the rocky Burren shore. SO MANY ROCKS. (In case you were wondering why Ireland is full of cute stone fences instead of wood, it's simply because when they clear the land for farming, they have to do something with all those rocks).

The Cliffs of Moher were next, and they are extremely self-explanatory. Although when Emily asked the visitor centor lady how many tourists died, she corrected us to "visitors" and said she didn't know. Hmm. Also take note of how small the people are, and how small the castle on the far cliff is (the castle is probably about ~45 feet tall). 

The rain clouds started to settle in

After the cliffs, we headed to the Portal Tomb, or "Hole of Sorrow" as our bus-driver guide translated for us...which made us giggle...a lot. Oh man, I'm a terrible person. Anyway, it really was soooo amazing. It had a surreal feeling. I could almost imagine faeries and leprechauns were real at this point. 

On the way back, we had dinner at a traditional Irish restaurant, where I had the best salmon of my entire life. In fact, it might have been the best MEAL of my entire life (sorry mom). Oh, and we ended our tour with a stop at a castle. I think the guide said it was one of the old O'Brian castles. Ok ladies, update: get yourself a man with a cute Irish accent who sings and feeds baby sheep and believes in faeries AND has the last name of O'Brian!! 

It was probably the most perfect way possible to end my trip to Ireland. I am so glad I got to cross it off my List. I would recommend a trip to anyone that is thinking about going. But I would probably advise picking a different (more traditional) city than Dublin, and I'd also recommend visiting the Giant's Causeway (unfortunately we didn't have time for this, but it looks unbelievable!). Sorry for this post being extremely long! Belgium is next! 


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