A Travellerspoint blog

The last day.

London town.

sunny 77 °F

May 28th, 2012

Oh sad day. I recommend you never to come to Ireland except on two occasions. You either intend to stay until you're homesick,or you develop a hatred for the Irish. In these ways you'll not regret leaving so much as we do. it's poetically tragic, but it makes my heart bleed to leave here. 

Our morning was an early one. We had to catch the plane to London for the final day of our honeymoon fun. The shuttle came and got us and we were at the airport within the half hour. Through security, on the plane, and quickly through British customs after landing, we were back where it all started 17 days ago. David had mentioned that we use the tube (metro/subway) to get around London. After a little bit of confusion we found it and made it to our hostel. This hostel is easily my least favorite. The help did not even say hi or give us a smile. They just told us what we owed and gave us a key. Lame. The hostel itself is very clean, too clean. It actually looks like a really ice hotel. White marble looking floors and sterile gray walls. Nicole and I commented that it felt like an asylum
  or hospital more than a place to sleep. We rested our feet and took a two hour nap before heading out to see some sights and find some dinner. Last time I was here, David took us to an underground dungeon restaurant. The ceiling in the dining area is so low that I have to stoop. It's dark except for the candlelight on the tables, and what was cool to us guys a year ago, now became a romantic setting. Fitting since today is our 1 monthiversary!  We ordered a cheese plate with Gouda and smoked cheddar, pickles, sauce, and bread. Nicole had some red wine and we sat in the dungeon reminiscing our trip. After and hour we decided to leave and walk around until we were hungry again.  We walked along the river to the huge ferris wheel.  From the we walked across the river to my favorite place, the Parliament building. Directly across the street from that is Westminster Abbey.  Nicole and I loved every minute of it. We came across a little pub and decided to get fish and chips for our last meal in London. It was by far the worst meal of our trip. For 10 Pounds each, which is about 17 dollars, our fish was small, still with the skin on it, and bones in it.  The setting was nice though. We then continued our whirlwind tour down to Buckingham Palace, where construction was in full swing for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. I do not know exactly what that is, but I am going to look it up when we get home. (No free Internet at our hostel) it's funny, Casey and I were there last year one day before the Royal Wedding, and now Nicole and I are here  just before another big event. And don't forget the Olympics are soon! Finally at the end of our energy, we went back to the hostel, sad to be leaving our amazing vacation.

Posted by hangtime41 17:53 Archived in England Comments (0)

Alas!

Leaving Galway stinks!

sunny 74 °F

May 27th, 2012

Thankfully we do not have to rush to any train or plane today, and can leave on our own time. We didn't have to check out until 11am so we had a long leisurely breakfast, then laid on our bed while I wrote more blogs. When it was time to go, we went downstairs to say goodbye to our hosts on our way to the bus stop. They told us that they had been talking about what such a nice couple we were. The husband then told us that they gave us the honeymoon suite for a taste for after we get married.  I showed him my ring and said we were married already, the wife then asked if it was our honeymoon.  We said it was and they both shouted in delight! We chatted a while longer and the husband offered to give us a ride to town. Before we left, the wife was so delighted with us and being on our honeymoon, that she gave Nicole a gift of earrings. What a sweet lady! We regret leaving them as much as leaving Johnny in Italy. We had an intriguing conversation with the husband on the way to town. It was the type of cultural discussion that I love, that only ever seems to take place when I don't have enough time. Too soon he dropped us off and we had to say goodbye. 

We had a mission to accomplish before leaving Galway for good. Since our bus tickets were open ended for any time we chose, we went into town to affect our purpose. Nicole had been browsing earrings and necklaces like I said in an earlier blog. There were two pieces that she had in her mind since the first day we arrived. We joyfully walked down to the store, Nicole being ecstatic. Oh unhappy day! The store was closed! However, since it is Sunday, we knew they would open soon. It was 11:30 by this time and we wagered they would be open by 12. Sadly they were not, but another store was. We went in and looked a t necklace I really liked, but even though Nicole liked it as well, she was sad not to see the other two pieces. She said we could just get this available one and leave, but I want her to be happy. I know that if we leave now, she will regret not being able to see and know for sure. So I took her to the McDonalds, and we waited. At 1:00 the store opened and Nicole and I rushed over. It only took her a moment to choose her 1 month anniversary gift, and we headed for the train. What? What is it you ask? Well it's Irish made, and you'll just have to ask Nicole to see it :)

What a miserable 3 hour bus ride. It's 78 outside and this bus has no AC. Sweaty, sticky, and disheveled, we exited the bus in Dublin. I have a light skip to my step here too from all the happy memories from last year. Our ability to find good Irish music in Galway was not the best. I knew, however, tonight would prove to be a good memory, with good music. We walked a short distance to the Temple Bar District to our Barnacles hostel, took showers, and hit the mean streets. Though we were hungry, I knew we had to get to the good sites while there was still daylight. I took Nicole to the beautiful Christchurch and the monothic St. Patrick's cathedral. She loved them both. We then bought a few gifts and headed to dinner. We ate at a little gourmet burger shop before looking for a pub for the evening. We settled on the world famous Temple Bar. It's where Casey and I had our last evening in Dublin and the place was already packed. We got some tasty beverages and stood in the area where the musicians were playing. We stood because there was no where to sit. They were playing blistering fast traditional Irish music and I was loving it! In the Temple Bar, you are extremely lucky to find seating. It really is shoulder to shoulder. Lucky us! Someone got up from their seats right in front of us and we took them, front and center from the band. This band played a few more songs and then retired, leaving so the next group could set up. In the meanwhile, we had made friends with a girl from Wisconsin at our table, two Hollanders, and a Polish guy. We had a fun chat about Bulmers and beer. The next band took the stage and started singing songs we knew and also traditional Irish songs. At one point they played "Country Road", by John Denver.  The whole bar took up the singing. And then it hit me. Those chills when you realize that are in Ireland, listening to authentic Irish musicians, having the time of your life. I soaked it all in, and refused to let the melancholy of the knowledge that we were leaving in the morning hit me. I would trade an evening at the Bruschetteria in Rome to spend the evening in Ireland. 
  

Posted by hangtime41 17:48 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Land ho!

The Aran Islands

sunny 78 °F

May 26th, 2012

Today marks the second island tour that we will be taking on our trip. We plan to go to the Aran Island, just off the west coast. There are actually three islands in the Aran islands, but as I do not have Internet as I write this and I'm too lazy to find some, I'll let you look up the names :) The one we are going to is the largest of the three. We woke up early to catch another wonderful Irish breakfast, this time made by our new hosts. The night before they had offered to take us in to town so that we didn't have to spend money on the bus. So after the best breakfast, we jumped in the car. He dropped us off at the ticket office none to soon, for just as we entered, a large group of people came in right behind us. Tickets purchased, we boarded the bus and chose the worst possible seats. The seats we chose are sideways so that you are not facing the front of the bus. Directly across from us are two such seats facing us. Who decides to sit there, but some love struck couple from Spain. How do I know they are from Spain? Beacuth Romeo hath hith ridculouth Barthelona accent. They kissed so many times that my breakfast was starting to churn. Not sweet kisses or even passionate ones, but really awkward smashed ones. So what did I do? I took pictures of them! Hahaha! A passenger down the way caught my eye and smiled in a knowing way. 

The ferry dropped us off at the windy port and we tried to figure out what to do! An extremely friendly and extremely Irish chap caught us and gave us directions and told us where to rent some bikes. So we did just that immediately after we bought a picnic lunch. Our bike tour took us along the coast of this Irish island. I forgot to mention that the locals here live with certain modern technologies, but also keep the old tradition alive. What is really awesome is that Gaelic is the first language here, not english. I really like knowing the Irish accent didn't just morph from the British, but rather is an accent based on the speaking of Gaelic. Back to the ride. I feel reminiscent of when Casey and I took our bike ride along the coast of southern Ireland. This island does not command the majestic views that we saw before, but still has intriguing and astonishing views of the farm land and coast. We were happy to be on our own tour going our own pace. Our tooshes however, were not. We road down to a sea lion cove where several live. We even caught some playing out in the water. From here we road up to a sandy beach which we promptly ran out on it. Though the temperature was well into the upper 70s, the water was frigid. You'd have to either be mad, or be a kid, to get in. When we'd had enough, we road up to some shops that served as the entry point to a path for a 5,000 year old ring fort built on the cliffs. It was a long walk up there, and we could see it pretty well from the bottom. We decided not to pay the money to see it for two reasons. The first was that we were both wearing flip flops and the path was very rocky.  Second, when your main mode of transportation is your feet, three weeks of such foot soreness changes your decisions. Besides, like I said, we could see it pretty well from afar. We road away to look for a blow hole or worm hole on the coast. The scene is this: it's sunny, with a decent wind. You are riding down a grass trail amidst stone fences as far as you can see. In the distance, the sea is always sparkling and you are out on adventure!  We were having a blast! In search of the hole, an older Irish gentleman waved us over from his home. His accent was the thickest I've heard. It's easy to tell that this man has spoken Gaelic his whole life. These Irish are so friendly. He asked about our day, where we were headed, and gave us directions. We followed them to a rocky beach and no one was in sight! Picnic time! So there we were, sitting on a huge boulder over looking our secluded cove eating lunch. We did not see one person until we left. That was one of my favorite memories, just Nicole and I taking a respite from our journey. Lunch over, we rode our way back to town to nab a few gifts before the 4 o'clock ferry left for Galway. Aran Islands: success!

A side note I've re realized. I am a sponge for foreign accents and a huge source of entertainment for Nicole. Let me give you and example. Twice today I responded to an Irish person in an Irish accent. The first time, I actually realized I did it, and then noticed Nicole's shoulders shaking in silent mirth. She noticed too. The second time I did, I did not even realize that I had but looked over to see Nicole dying of laughter. 
"You did it again!" she giggled. 
"I did? No way!" 
"Oh yes you did", and more laughing. 

Back at our B&B, we rested from the day and took some showers. It's going to be another night on the town! By this time I was starving, well we both were. We strolled along the streets and came upon a gelato shop. Of course Nicole couldn't resist and we used the gelato as fuel to find some real dinner. The gelato here is one thing, and that is not as good as gelato in Italy. We were so hungry, and not wanting to spend too much, that there was only one clear choice. Finnegans again for bangers and mash and chicken with chips.  Having a wife is so awesome. I don't think I'll ever be hungry after I finish my plate again. There is always her plate!  We wanted to catch some tunes with a nice beverage before leaving town. We wandered up and down looking for some place with traditional music. Unfortunately by this time the traditional artists were done and the more modern were playing. We settled on the King's Head since we saw a band setting up. We ordered drinks and sat to wait. Well, you know? It took them an hour to set up, and we had to leave. The last wagon out of Dodge left at 11:30 and we certainly were not going to walk the two miles. It wasn't a complete loss. The cider was good and the people watching very entertaining. So ended our final night in Galway. Both Nicole and I are sad we have to leave the sea, the street performers, and jolly Irish feeling, but at least tomorrow is Dublin!

Posted by hangtime41 17:46 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

My second home.

Galway.

sunny 78 °F

May 25th, 2012

Our first morning together in Galway. The noise, laughter and music from the night before, are now replaced with the quiet of a street occupied only with shop keepers restocking for the day. During the day, cars are not allowed on Quay Street, but in the morning they come in bringing supplies. Apparently, you must get to breakfast here at Barnacles before 8:30. Otherwise, there are no plates, no cups, no knives and no orange juice for you. No worries. We get to see the cliffs today!  We stopped at a little grocery health foods place for some overpriced water and headed to the bus station. I actually recognized one of the drivers from a tour we took last year. We were shortly underway. 

Our tour guide is a slightly nerdy looking Irishman, and we like him a lot. He's easy to understand and absolutely packed full of interesting knowledge. Our first stop was a dream come true for me. Last year, we had driven by a 12th century Abbey in ruins, and I had been chomping at the bit to see it up close. Well today, we got to go there! The history is astounding to me. At the time this abbey was built it was a very very secluded and remote place in Ireland. Monks had lived in this abbey, and though it's s former shadow of its former self, I can still picture brown robed friar Tucks walking around. We took some great pictures of the site. We then stopped at a little tea and coffe house out here in the middle of nowhere. The cakes were handmade and the cream from the neighboring farm. This was a truly rich Irish experience. Halfway through our cake, a inhabitant of this farm came out and sang us a hilarious Irish tune accapella. It was great! Then we went outside and an older gentleman had grabbed two of the early twenties guys in our tour and were teaching them hurling. Hurling is the national sport of the Irish. From what I can tell its like field hockey. In a sense. I didn't see enough to learn the rules but what a treat for us and those two guys to play with such an enthusiastic local. They got their picture with him and made a memory they will have always. I was actually happy for them but a litte jealous of such a great memory.  Next was into the landscape of the Burren. The Burren is the second largest landmass of exposed limestone Europe if I remember right. This landscape is bizarre and unlike anything else. It's even different than the giants causeway. All these fields of flat limestone with huge splits and cracks gouging it. Our driver gave us a saying about the Burren that goes like this: "The Burren is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him...... and yet their cattle are very fat". Again I'm amazed by the unnatural look of the land, but also all the rock fences. These rock fences can date back several thousand years and they are everywhere! Usually about 4 feet high, rock fences are not held together by any mortar, but stacked with skill so they don't fall. The fences were used for livestock and to divide land. Now on to the most anticipated part of the day, the cliffs!

Nicole has been excited all day to see the Cliffs of Moher and I have been excited to see her see them! The day is absolutely perfect. It's 76 out here and sunny as can be. As we approach the cliff Nicole keeps saying Wow!  That's all you really can say when you see them. They are so majestic and so long you can't help but just be content to sit and stare. We went to several vantage points and enjoyed them from every angle. Toward the end of our visit, we saw some genius go right out to the edge of the cliff and dangle his legs over. He was in such a dangerous position he made both Nicole and I sick to our stomach. We decided to leave then and not wait to watch him fall. Something like that would kind of ruin our memory of the place. The bus took us to the town of Doolin for lunch. We savored the best sea food chowder. The trip ended its site seeing at the Dungaire Castle. We were allowed to go into the castle grounds, but unable to go inside as they were hosting a dinner in there! I want to go to dinner in a castle! 

Back in Galway, we went home to shower and get ready for the evening. We headed out and strolled the streets,of Galway coming to McDounagh's. Here we had some cod and chips. It was pretty good, but not like the fish cafe! After dinner we headed to the Pucan, a recommendation from our hosts. It was the perfect ending to the night. Nicole had a Carlsberg and I had the refreshing delights of a berry Bulmers.  We sat, listened to music, and talked about our day. It was so nice, so relaxing, and so fun. I love this place. 

Posted by hangtime41 04:59 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Real Ireland.

More bus time.

sunny 74 °F

May 24th, 2012

Let me warn you, it's a traveling day. However, I'm super duper excited for this day! Today I'm going home, to real Ireland! It really does feel like going home and I can't wait to be strolling the streets of Galway with my gorgeous wife and watch her react to the city. We were able to sleep in a little and take our time this morning, which is not a luxury we've often had this trip. We ate our tasty as ever breakfast then caught a cab to the bus station. The cab you say? Yes the cabby drove up and asked to take us for one euro each. Nicole was going to say no. She is used the rude and sneaky people in Italy. But this is not Italy. Whether in not real Ireland or real Ireland the people are very friendly and helpful. After paying the cabby double, because I'm a sucker for an honest person that keeps his word, we caught the bus to Dublin. Once in Dublin we grabbed a bite and jumped on a bus for Galway. The trip to Dublin took about two hours and the trip to Galway will take under three. 

Galway! Off the bus and I'm skipping my steps. I love it here so much you have no idea:). We crossed the square to Quay Street, which is the main street. Our ears were immediately tickled with the sound of the ultra talented street performers. The crowds were huge due to it being one of the nicest days Ireland had seen in a while. Here, if the sun comes out, people just leave work and enjoy it. Nicole looked very excited and told me so as we walked through the colorfully painted buildings and shops. Every 100 feet or so you run into another awesome musician. Tie this with the sounds of the gulls overhead and the feel of Quay Street and the happy bubbly feeling that you are in Ireland comes over you. Real Ireland.  We made our way to Barnacles, a hostel Casey and I stayed at last year. Our room was really nice and our window overlooks Quay. Exciting! We rested only briefly and then headed out. At the front desk we ordered tickets to the Cliffs of Moher tour. The single tour I've been most excited about going on with Nicole. She has yet to really experience what Ireland has to offer and this tour will open those warm brown eyes. Tickets purchased, we headed out to the shops. I guided Nicole to the jewelry shops and had her start looking. Last year, I had bought her a necklace from Dublin that turned a brown color from its original silver. On this trip I've my mind made up to get her something nice and made right here in Ireland. We perused several stores and she narrowed it down to a few she liked. We will mull it over and come back at the end of our trip when she realizes which one she can't live without. 

I wanted to find a place to eat that Casey and I had gone to when we were here. So we took a really nice boardwalk-like stroll up a river toward the top of town. From here we made our way to the restaurant Finnegans. We each had some chicken and chips, and Nicole, as has been her custom this trip, ordered a coke zero. From dinner we went back to the hostel to rest up for the evening. Our plan was to go sit in the Spanish Arch and try to catch some live tunes. We did just that, while the both of us sipped on an Irish cider called Bulmers. The atmosphere was nice and music was lively. Upon seeing the bottom of our glasses we decided to stroll around to the other pubs in the area. We went to several, but as we had traveled all day, we didn't stay long and ended up going back to Barnacles for bed. We wanted to be well rested when I finally got to experience the Cliffs of Moher with Nicole!

Posted by hangtime41 11:44 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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