Good craic in Southern Ireland!
Trip Start Sep 11, 2008
38Trip End Dec 12, 2008
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Following my worst shower yet, I checked into my tour in the hostel lobby on Friday morning. This group was much larger than my last - we were about 35 people in a bug bus, and had a driver (Celia) and a tour guide (Kevin). Kevin had us all introduce ourselves at the front of the bus, which was a nice ice-breaker. Once again, there were heaps of Aussies, lots of Americans, a few South Africans and Canadians, and one Kiwi. We drove west out of Dublin, and our first stop was at the John Locke whisky distillery in Kilbeggan. Like most Irish distilleries, this one had closed down in the 1950s - although it has since reopened in a different location - so it was cool to see how whisky was traditionally made (without all the new hi-tech devices)
We headed to Clanmacnoise after that to walk around a ruined monastery, and picked up lunch in Gort. The weather started getting worse, and on top of the pouring rain, really thick fog started creeping up - so much so that we could barely see 10 feet outside the bus window. We went to the Cliffs of Moher nonetheless, which were still impressive evne though it would've been much better to see them in clear conditions. The weather did, however, add an extra atmospheric element - it looked like the Atlantic Ocean was getting sucked up by the clouds. And another cool thing to think about was that earlier this summer, I was standing on the opposite side of the same ocean in New Brunswick!
After a good bus nap, we arrived in Doolin for the night. Doolin is a small town made of four pubs, six street lights and a mailbox, more or less! Most of our group went out to a small pub where I had my first pint of Guinness in Ireland, along with yummy Irish stew. We hung out there all evening, and were entertained by an Irish band playing celtic music. We got up early the next morning to catch a ferry across River Shannon (which made me laugh because I have a friend named Shannon, and the tour guide kept referring to it as 'broad and majestic Shannon'!). After a lunch of fish n' chips by the water in the town of Dingle, we drove around the beautifully-scenic Dingle Peninsula and saw 'beehive monasteries' and hiked to the westernmost point in Europe! I could practically see Newfoundland...haha! We also stopped on a beach on Dingle Bay where, as myth will have it, if you soak your feet in the water, you will lose some of your soul.
We spent Saturday night in Killarney, which is quite touristy but also adorable with its streets lined with pubs, restaurants and shops. Five of us (the four girls in my room and I) went to a few pubs for beers and dinner, and met up with the rest of the group at yet another pub. We all went out to the 'Grand Hotel', which isn't a hotel at all. It's actually one of the strangest places - when you walk in, you're in a traditional Irish pub with live music. Then, you walk through a middle room, and end up in a black-light and dry-ice disco! So we had another beer and danced the night away to the most random song selection! Fun times :)
After little sleep, we headed to Blarney Castle where I kissed the Blarney Stone - I should now be blessed with the gift of gab! On the way back to Dublin, we got a tour of the Mitchelstown caves, which were amazing. The stalactites/stalagmites and different rock formations were really impressive, and some fossils dated back more than 13 millions years. Unfortunately, I couldn't take any pictures in the caves, so you'll have to go see them yourselves! A bunch of people from the tour were staying in Dublin overnight, so we all went for dinner and a pint at a nearby pub and had great conversation
(A side note for my Ottawa friends: I found out that Grace O'Malley (after whom I assume the city's infamous pubs are named) is actually quite infamous herself, for many stories, one of them being that she chopped her first-born son in half for being a coward during an Irish rebellion! I thought you might like to think about that next time you go! haha)
Celina, an Australian girl from the tour, stayed in my hostel, so the two of us walked around the city of Dublin today. I couldn't believe it, but I saw a place that sells Tim Hortons donuts! We ran into Carolyn, another Aussie from the tour, and the three of us headed for the Guinness Storehouse this afternoon. It was so much better than I expected. We started out by seeing Arthur Guinness' 9,000-year lease of the premises (at the decent price of £45 yearly rent), found out how the beer and barrels are made, and ended the visit by pouring our own pints of the black stuff
So that pretty much sums up my last few days in Southern Ireland. I've been travelling for a bit more than a month now, and I'm having a great time! I'm also getting much better at walking up the hundreds of flights of stairs all around Europe without being completely out of breath. I am, however, getting a little tired and will probably need to stay in one place for a few days to reboot. It's been quite an intense weekend. :)
I'm flying to London tomorrow, and will have dinner with Shannon, Liam and Becky. After dinner, I'll be heading back to Gatwick airport to await my next flight at 5:50 am to Thessaloniki. I'm anxious to find out how busy Greece will be (especially northern Greece), and I'm hoping to find some short day trips when I get there. I'm also looking forward to warmer weather...sunshine will be nice!
I hope everyone enjoyed their long Thanksgiving weekend. Miss you!