Sunday, June 07, 2009

Past Due

This is not an illusion. It's an actual post! Bet everyone thought the zombies got me.

First off, I'm still alive and well. Outdoorsy Girl still loves travel and everything outdoorsy, but bad economy = less money to travel. I did make it to Ireland at the beginning of the year, though and a couple of little weekend trips here and there. I posted a little about them on my Facebook (so if you aren't my friend on Facebook, add me!).

Beginning this weekend I am going on my longest road trip ever cross-country. It will be incredible and beautiful but not without its challenges. Why you ask? I can sum it up in just a couple of sentences: I am going with my parents on their retirement trip. I have not had a real vacation with them since I was like 19. On that note, please remember me in your prayers.

Thought I would post a few photos and words on my Ireland trip before I embark on the next journey.

January 2009

So Best Friend and I decided to go to Ireland at the most inopportune time of the year--the dead of winter, when the sun doesn't rise until nearly 9 a.m. and sets around 4 p.m. There is no high-noon. The sun never rises completely overhead. We had much to see and do and we only had four days.

Some doubted we would be able to see everything we wanted in such a short time, but I am pleased to say that not only did we see everything on our list, but we did it all while driving on the wrong (left) side of the road!

Day 1- After sleeping nearly the entire time of on the plane, we landed in Dublin and grabbed our uber expensive renal car. Poor BF was the first to attempt driving on the left side of the road through the roundabouts in traffic. She did it like a pro. After many tiny roads and tiny Irish towns and three hours later, we pulled into the town of Blarney. We visited the famous castle, kissed the even more famous Blarney Stone, and walked the grounds of the castle over to the eerie Rock Close, where the legends of the Druids and the Blarney Witch dwell.
After dinner at a pub, we made it to our Bed and Breakfast, the home of lovely, welcoming Ms. Ida O'Donovan.

Day 2- I took the wheel of car as soon as we could (sort of) see the sun rising and drove is through the town of Killarney and into the beautiful Killarney National Park where we saw enormous, clear lakes, mountain ranges, waterfalls, and moss-laden forests. We continued our scenic journey along the famous Ring of Kerry Drive which took us over Ireland's highest mountains, McGillicuddy Reeks and around cliffs overhanging the ocean. (All along narrow, potholed, bumpy, winding roads I might add.)We retired that night at Darby O'Gill's Country House Hotel and had dinner in the pub.

Day 3- A long drive again today to the Boyne River area, just north of Dublin. Mallow Castle in the town of Mallow was our first stop. It's ruins were interesting as were the white deer on the back of the rounds. Still, it paled in comparison to our next stop--the Rock of Cashel--in the town on Cashel. The castle, cathedral, and chapel ruins were incredible! On the grounds stands an interesting cross called The Cross of St. Patrick, where the saint converted on of the pagan kings to Christianity. During the prayer, St. Patrick unknowingly speared the king in the foot with his staff. The king kept quiet during the ceremony as he thought that perhaps this was just part of the painful process of becoming a Christian! He later mentioned it to St. Patrick.
We made out way, losing ourselves constantly on the poorly marked roads, to the town of Trim. Trim is the home of the Trim or King John's Castle--the largest Norman castle remaining in Europe and the castle that was used in the movie Braveheart! We visited it just before sunset and after a wonderful dinner in our hotel, the Castle Arch Inn's pub, we went out into the freezing night to take photos with our tripods of the castle, which was lit up in green, blue, and yellow lights. It was a sight to see!

Day 4- Heading still north before swinging back down into Dublin, we visited a couple of sites that were important to Ireland's history. The Hill of Tara was our first stop. Where as Tara is not that impressive of a site at ground level (It's aerial views are much more interesting), this hill is very important in history. It was the site of the high seat of the pagan kings and dwelling place of the gods. That is, until St. Patrick made a visit here. I'm sure we would've enjoyed it more if the gates to the top were open and we could've seen the Stone of Destiny and the Passage Tomb, but people in Ireland apparently, do not get up early, so we enjoyed views from the bottom of the hill and made friends with a sheep. Next stop was the impressive ruins of Monasterboice, an ancient monastery with the round tower still standing as well as a couple of ancient Celtic High Crosses.
Then we returned out car to Dublin and took the (slow) public transit around town after checking into the Tallaght Cross Hotel. Dublin, in comparison to other European cities I have visited, was by far the least interesting. Still, we enjoyed some of the sites, especially the Guinness Storehouse! After touring the brewery, we enjoyed a pint in the Gravity Bar upstairs, which was like a very short, small version of the Space Needle's top. You could see all of Dublin from there. After having beer, beer, and beer, we went stumbled down to St. Patrick's Cathedral. The we walked to the Dublin Castle, through the wild Temple Bar area (where some were already starting to celebrate New Year's Eve), and along the Liffey River to O'Connell Street, which was totally decked out in holiday cheer. We had dinner, went into a store, and not knowing what else to do to kill a few hours in the freezing weather, went back to the hotel, watched London's version of Rockin' New Year's Eve and threw open our window at midnight to see downtown Dublin's fireworks and the fireworks completely surrounding our hotel, and yelling to the people below who were singing and celebrating and yelling "Happy New Year" for 45 minutes.

The next morning, we were on a plane sitting next to some annoying kids on our way to Chicago where we caught our flight back to Atlanta. What a great trip!

Hoping to be posting happy notes about the road trip soon!