Extreme Castle Climbers

Trip Start Mar 21, 2012
Trip End Mar 28, 2012

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Flag of Ireland  , County Cork,
Sunday, March 25, 2012

We woke up Sunday morning to another beautiful day in Killarney.  It started off with a jaunting cart (aka horse and carriage) ride in the national park.  I (mysteriously) scored a seat in the front of the cart with the driver, and a prime view of the beautiful lakes, mountains, and wildlife.  One of my favorite views was of the wispy clouds hovering over the mountains (which were the tallest peaks in Ireland), and my favorite story was of the Leprechaun Wall that our driver pointed out to us.  He said that leprechauns were reported to live in the little holes and nooks in the wall, and the best time to go find them is at 3 am after the pubs close.  Our driver, Mike, was very nice, and even told us his secret recipe for a Winter Warmer: start with a heated cup, then add two parts water and one part Jameson whiskey, with a spoon of brown sugar and honey.  That's a drink worthy of a Chicago winter if I ever heard one!  Mike's been driving these jaunting carts since he was 11--had no other job, he said.  Mike also did a great job of pointing out the deer and other critters we passed by--safari Ireland style!!

We were all sad to leave Killarney, but luckily we had even more fun waiting for us at Blarney Castle.  It was one of my favorite parts of the trip--the grounds were beautiful and full of flowers, and the castle had lots of caves and hidden rooms to explore.  After a slightly treacherous climb up several spiral staircases, we finally made it to the top of the castle and kissed the Blarney stone.  Kissing the stone is said to give you the gift of gab, which is why my posts have been so entertaining and insightful thus far.  Anywho, kissing the stone wasn't nearly as death-defying as it's made out to be--you have a safety bar right below you, and a patient Irishman to hold your legs as you bend back limbo-style to give the stone a peck.  I was extremely classy and scraped my nose on the stone wall on the way back up, but no other injuries to report.

We really had miraculously warm & sunny weather during the week we spent in Ireland.  According to our trusty tour guides, March 2012 was the warmest March in Ireland on record!  Since the weather was so nice, we had lunch on the patio deck of Christy's pub, and everyone got ice cream afterwards.  I love the picture we took of a bunch of us lined up with our ice cream cones--we look like a bunch of tourists having their first gelato in Italy.  Our new bus driver, Freddie, was jealous :)

In the afternoon we started heading back to Dublin through Tipperary, where my Dwyer relatives come from.  It's amazing how much Tipperary looks like central Illinois, even down to the overpasses--however, every once in a while the farm town landscape would be broken up by ruins of ancient castles.  Grace and I dissolved into giggles when we heard a Tipperary radio ad that said "coming to you from the Midwest" of Ireland, which confirmed our suspicions that Illinois and Tipperary are one in the same.  The boys slept through this revelation, though, and were crushed.

Our new bus driver, Freddie, told some hilarious stories to keep us entertained on the way back to Dublin, including the time when he accidentally rang some church bells, and when Freddie sent his mother's car rolling off a cliff, and she thought (mistakenly) his baby sister was still inside.  He also told us a chilling story about how the IRA stole his father's delivery truck and held the family hostage while they were robbing a bank; however, young Freddie slept through the whole thing.  One of the best stories had to be when his uncle was going through US customs, and when asked for the purpose for his trip, he replied "Oh, I'm just here for the craic."  If you recall from my earlier post, "craic" means fun or good times in Irish, and is pronounced like "crack," so Freddie's poor uncle had to spend the first 6 hours of his trip explaining to US customs officials how he wasn't a drug mule, but simply wanted to have some laughs on vacation.  Gotta hand it to us Americans for our cultural knowledge :P

The final stop of the day was at the Rock of Dunamase, a castle/fortress that afforded lovely views of the surrounding hills and farms.  At this point of the trip I was a little tired of clambering over ruins of castles, so I laid down on a soft bed of grass to admire the pastoral views and take a wee little nap.  The boys and Gracie went wild with the camera, though, and took lots of "I conquer this rock and all the people beneath it" pics.  Finally, we made it back to Dublin and hiked over to Kinlay House, our new home base for the rest of the trip.  We topped off an action-packed day at Gallagher's Boxty House, where a nice red-haired Irish lass served us some really stellar grub, and then we all lost heroically to Chris M. in ping pong back at the hostel.  More chronicles of our Dublin adventures in the next post! 
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