Day 14-15: Dublin - The End

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Despite trying at the last minute to get a hostel bed for another night because he didn't want to leave us, everything was booked so Jake had to move on to Cork.  Jesse had stayed out until 4am or something crazy like that and was resting, so Josh and I went out for coffee and to visit my old apartment.

After creeping around there we took a walk through Trinity and got some lunch at Porterhouse.  After Jesse got up we went out for gelato and then back to Porterhouse to try some of their craft beers.  We were all pretty exhausted so we called it an early night.

The next day we got to see some more of the city.  We stopped at Dublin Castle, which I had never actually entered while I lived there.  It's not much of a castle but the little garden area was very pretty.

After that we visit Dublinia.  I think this was probably my fourth time there, but I always find it fun to visit. 
From there the boys headed off to the Guinness Storehouse and I headed back to meet up with my old roommate Ellen.  I took me forever to find the place we were meeting (life is tough without wifi!), but luckily she got caught up selling bikes at her bike shop so she was running late, too.  We had a delicious lunch and had a great time catching up and reminiscing.  We took a couple of drinks up to their roof terrace and enjoyed the little bit of sun we got until it started raining.  She then came back with me to the hostel so that she could meet the boys. 

They hadn't eaten so after chatting for a bit we decided to go back out into the rain and find some food.  Guess where we ate?  Another small pub! I will admit that I was completely sick of pub food by the end of this trip, but they always have the coziest feeling to them.

It was then time to head back to the hostel and pack one last time :( :(

We had only been gone for two weeks, but home and work seemed like such a distant memory.  It felt like I had been gone for months.  It was so nice getting to finish this trip in Dublin.  I hope I can get back there and visit again, but being able to return three years later really put some perspective on my time there and how grateful I am to have had that opportunity.

Now, thinking about those two weeks of traveling feels like months ago, but I had so much fun seeing old friends and making new friends with so many wonderful people that I won't be forgetting it anytime soon.

So... is it too soon to start planning my next trip?

Day 13: Dublin - The Land of Many Reunions

Thursday, May 28, 2015

When we were initially planning this trip we first thought we'd rent a car to get between Galway, Killarney, and Dublin, but as we were working everything out it just seemed easier to take buses between the cities.  We hit a road block though when trying to figure out how to get from Killarney to Dublin.  The bus would take 6 hours, the train was 68, and there were flights that were only 41 but we didn't want to deal with airports.

We spent some time going back and forth with these options when I remember that a friend I was planning on meeting up with in Dublin actually lived in Cork and would have to be getting there somehow.  I texted her and it turned out that she'd be driving to Dublin just around the time we wanted to!  We coordinated taking a bus from Killarney to Macroom, and from there we drove with the wonderful Mags up to Dublin.  I don't think we could have worked it any more perfectly.

My bed had a great view of the Liffey.
We made it to our hostel just as it started raining outside.  After making our beds, unpacking our bags, and taking quick showers, we decided it was time for food.  We hunted down our Australian friend Jake from the Galway hostel and went to the Temple Bar area to Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  After a filling lunch we walked up Grafton Street to St. Stephen's Green where we found a sunny patch of grass and just relaxed.  Despite the fact that a week prior I had only known Josh, the four of us were all able to just lay there and chat like we had all known each other for years.  It's funny what traveling can do to you.

Ireland legalized gay marriage while we were there. Very cool to experience.

There were several different groups of people that we wanted to meet up with that night and it took a while to figure out where the best place would be to do so.  We were just outside Temple Bar so there were several touristy place to chose from, but we were meeting with mostly Irish people who, for the most part, avoid Temple Bar like the plague.  We decided on Dicey's which, I told Jesse, would give him the best experience of what the Irish actually do vs. the image the Irish tourism board wants to portray.  I had visited Dicey's several times when I was getting my degree in Dublin.  While it is definitely more of a club, with the right company it was a lot of fun.

We pretty much just sent messages out to multiple groups of people telling them all to convene there. First was Josh's roommate from Galway who now lived in Dublin.  Then my three former classmates Mags, Candace, and Cliodhna arrived.  (Candace just happened to be visiting Dublin the same week I was!)  Then a few more hostel friends from Luxembourg found us.  It was this big mismatched group of Americans, Irish, Australian, and Luxembourgers in this noisy club just having a great time.  Despite all of the amazing sites we had seen over the last two weeks, this was probably my favorite part of the trip.
MIMs reunited!

Day 12: Killarney - Don't Go Chasin Waterfalls

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It was raining pretty heavily when we woke up, so we used that time to just relax a bit and get some laundry done.  When the rain finally did clear up we went for a car ride.  We had originally planned to hike a mountain, but with the rain washing out that plan, we decided to drive to a few scenic spots instead.

We parked in front of the Aghadoe Heights Hotel and had a beautiful view of Killarney National Park.  There was an old fort there that we climbed around in for a while, and an old cemetery that we wandered through. There is something so fascinating about old cemeteries.  As creepy as they can be sometimes, I always find myself drawn to them.

From there we drove to the Torc Waterfall within the National Park.  It would have been a beautiful area to hike, but since our time was cut short due to the rain, we just parked near the waterfall and walked down to it. I'm embarrassed to say how tough that was for me.  A week and a half of pub food completely wiped out any gym progress I had made.

Bottling up the crystal clear water.
We spent the evening in the center of Killarney. We ate at another small pub and then got some ice cream, enjoying our last night in the quaint town atmosphere before heading off to the "big" city in the morning.  

Day 11: Galway - Menlo Castle

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

After checking out of our hostel and storing our bags, we started to head for Menlo Castle.  Josh had gone when he was here five years ago and despite it being a bit of a hike, I really wanted to check it out, too.  We stopped at Dunnes along the way to get things for a lunch picnic.  We also stopped to visit our horse friends that we had met the day before.

It was a three mile walk which isn't too bad but it was probably the warmest day we had had since starting our trip.  By the end of the walk I had stripped off several layers and we were all sporting new sunburns that would be commented on multiple times during the rest of the trip.

Technically (or at least Josh thought) the ruins of this castle were on private property.  There was a gate and a path that would lead to the castle, but in an attempt to be stealthy we tried climbing over a low wall and trekking through the woods.  It was quite a trek.  He said it was much less over grown when he had been there before but now we were walking in about five inches of plants.  There were a few other walls we had to climb over, all of which were covered in thorns.  There was also one gate covered in barbed wire.  I came out with several nicks and scratches. At one point we even had to walk by two horses who were clearly just thinking "Wtf are these people doing in our field?" For some reason though, this trek was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Of course as soon as we finished trying to be sneaky, we saw multiple groups of people just strolling down the path like it was no big deal. I would later Google the place to find out that it actually belongs to Galway City Council which, to me, mean it's probably just a public area.  Whatever, the sneakiness was fun.

We were able to climb through and on the ruins.  My Google search later would also tell me about the family that owned the castle and the tragic fire that had damaged it beyond repair and also killed the family's daughter.  Her body was never found which means she was most likely somewhere under our feet as we were exploring.

We had a lovely picnic along the river that ran just behind the castle.  We then started our 3 mile walk back to catch a bus for Killarney.

Johnny met us at the bus stop and, after a quick stop at the grocery store, took us back to his house to drop off our bags.  It was so nice staying in a place where I didn't have lock up my bag or worry about my things being in the way of someone else.

Around 11pm, Johnny took us for a drive to a farm down a random winding road.  Despite the farm being surrounded by electric fences, we crawled under them and started walking through the field, just using moonlight and some cell phone light to see where we were going.

After a couple more buzzing electric fences, we found ourselves in front of these two seven foot tall stones.  Behind them was a raised ring of trees, with a small path between two of them leading to a ring of smaller rocks.  Johnny called this a fairy fort.  He told us at least one story of some strange happenings in the ring and said how some people just refuse to enter them.  We stayed in there for a while but every noise from the brush around us was eerie.  The area definitely felt... different.  The creepiest part of all of this was that I took a picture with my phone almost as soon as we crossed between the two tall stones, and suddenly my cell phone battery went completely dead.  It had been at around 75% while getting out of the car at the farm entrance just a few minutes prior.
The one picture I got in the Fairy Fort (there was some carvings on the stone.)
We hung out there for a while before heading back to Johnny's house.  We had a couple of drinks and then decided to walk into town.  It was already close to 12 so there wasn't much open but we were able to find one place with a great guitarist where we could sit down and enjoy the music.

Day 10: Galway - Josh's Nostalgia Day

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jesse was going on a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, Johnny had to go back to work, and Jake had moved on to Dublin, so it was back to just Josh and myself.  We spent most of the day just walking around seeing all of his old favorite sites.  We made our way over to his old campus and then on to his apartment.  Along the way to got to meet some adorable horses. After a quick stop at the hostel for lunch we headed back out towards Salthill and got a beautiful view of Galway Bay.

After that we met back up with Jesse and a few of his friends that happened to be visiting at the same time for dinner and a few drinks. They had just come from Dublin so it was nice to talk to them about what they thought of it.

The bigger group went on to another pub after, that but Josh and I took it easy and just got some ice cream before heading back to the hostel. 

Days 7-9: Galway - Wandering and Drinking

Sunday, May 24, 2015

We didn't have much time before our flight to Ireland, but we managed to squeeze in a walk through Princes Street Garden where we got this beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle.

It was a short bus ride to the airport and I am very happy to say that I made it on to a Ryanair flight with no baggage issues!  I've always made it on these flights with what I've brought, but I've always had to "prove" my bag was small enough, or unpack several layers and wear them onto the plane to meet their requirements.

Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for no apparent reason and, despite sprinting through the airport, we missed our bus to Galway.  Fortunately, everyone is pretty relaxed in Ireland and they had no problem just transferring our tickets to the next bus that came through instead.
We arrived in Galway and found our way to our hostel (only after doing a full circle of Eyre Square) where we met up with Josh's cousin, Jesse.  We were all very hungry and Josh already had a list of places he wanted to eat at, so we immediately went out for food. (Not sure if I've mentioned it, but Josh studied in Galway about 5 years ago so this was a bit of a homecoming for him.)

After dinner we went to the Salt House which was a small pub with a lot of craft beers.  It was loud and crowded but made me so happy to be back in Ireland.

The next day we spent the morning wandering around the city with our new hostel friend, Jake.  We did another free tour (again, only after fully circling the square searching for the starting point!) This tour was much more casual than the others, but just as fun.  The tour guide told us that he also did the nightly pub crawls and had had a rambunctious group of Germans the night before that left him feeling a little under the weather.  At least he was honest!
No Irish church is complete without a little JFK mosaic
We lost Josh for a bit at the end of the tour, but after finding him again we head out to find food.  After eating we headed back to the hostel to find Josh's Irish friend Johnny (I felt very left out that my name did not start with a "J").  We let those two catch up while the rest of us went back to our room to rest for a bit.

After power naps we had a few drinks in our room before we headed back out.  We went to The King's Head first for drinks.  Within the first 5 minutes there my drink had already been smashed on the ground if that give any indication of how the night went.  It was not smashed by me, just to be clear!

We headed to SuperMac's after that because there is nothing Josh and I missed more about Ireland than fries doused in artery-clogging junk after drinking.  It brings back so many memories.

While everyone was really just getting started, I was exhausted and decided to go back to the hostel and let them have a guys night.  I'm not even sure what time they came back, but I know they had fun.

Due to the excessive fun the night before, most of Saturday was spent with everyone sleeping and/or hungover.  I took this as a perfect excuse for a Penny's shopping trip!  It worked out perfectly for me.

We took it easy that night and just hung out in the hostel common room with a pizza and a few drinks which was just as fun if not more-so than the bars outside (to me at least!).

Day 6: Edinburgh - The Castle

Thursday, May 21, 2015

We spent most of the morning wandering in and out of the shops along the Royal Mile.  I ended up buying myself a big wool scarf, not as a souvenir, but because I was so cold. 

We had booked a tour with the same people that did the free walking tour to visit Edinburgh Castle.  Along our way towards the castle we got little bits of history about the area and some of their most famous historical figures.  Our tour of the castle itself was great.  There are a lot of exhibits within the castle that you could do on your own, but without this tour we would not have gotten the history of the castle itself, and that is really what interests me most.

Our tour ended inside the castle so we had the ability to wander around on our own and go to all of the exhibits.  We were able to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Prisoner of War Museum, the Great Hall, and the National War Museum.  I think the National War Museum was the most interesting to us, and it ended with a great photo exhibit of Scottish troops serving in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

There was also a whiskey tasting which was the perfect way to warm up while standing on top of a chilly mountain.

After finishing up in the castle we made our way back down the hill for dinner.  Then it was back to the hostel to shower and pack.

Day 5: Edinburgh - Beautiful City, Scary Ghost Walks

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Our train arrived at Waverley Station pretty early in the morning, but we were able to get to our hostel, drop our bags off, and hang out in the common room/kitchen to connect to wifi and check out the map. The map advertized for free walking tours and since we had such a good experience with the one in London, we decided to check it out.

Our view from our hostel
They spent a bit of time promoting their other (paid) tours, but overall this one was great, too.  I mean, it convinced us to pay for one of their others tours, so I'd say they were doing their job pretty well.
You should read the store behind this little pup: Greyfriars Bobby
Unlike London, Edinburgh is a small city so we were able to cover almost all of the old city within a couple hours on our tour.  It is also one of the most (if not THE most) beautiful cities I've ever been to.  There are so many amazingly preserved old buildings scattered about the steep hills no matter where you stand you can see something awesome.

After our tour we got lunch and drinks at The White Hart pub.  This is supposedly the oldest pub in the city.  Despite it being a clear day, it was cold so sitting down inside next to a fire was wonderful.  The cold didn't stop us from getting gelato after though.  We found seats on the side of a hill and were able to look down over the Grassmarket area and just enjoy the view. 

We finally were able to check in and shower.  We had both agreed we wanted to go a ghost tour, but we were originally going to save it for our second day in the city.  Since we didn't have a plans for that night though I talked Josh into doing it then instead.  It was cold but clear enough and, knowing the weather in the British Isles, I wasn't sure we'd luck out with as good a night if we waited.

Our tour wasn't until 10pm, but the sun sets so late there that there was a perfect erie glow to everything as we started the tour.  I had done a similar tour when I was here three years ago, but I wanted to try one of the other ones so Josh and I could both experience it new together.

I have always been fascinated by ghosts and I wouldn't say I'm afraid of them, but, damn, this woman could set a scene.  She had us jumping in fright before we even left the meeting spot to go on the tour.

We made our way down to the Vaults and somehow Josh and I found ourselves in the back of the group, our backs exposed to the darkness.  We literally both just stood facing each other, the rest of the group and the guide on one side of us, and our other side to the darkness.  At least if we were going to be attacked we'd see it coming.

The stories that were the creepiest were the ones she told about herself and other tour groups.  I'd share them here, but I know I won't do them justice.
(Pictures taken earlier in the day of Greyfriars)
After the vaults we headed to Greyfriars Kirkyard (Graveyard) where there was a mausoleum that was apparently haunted by a poltergeist.  The woman of course ushered us all into the small space and then went into details about what it feels like to be attacked by a poltergeist and how many attacks there had been in the past few years alone.  She again got us all riled up to the point where I don't think most of us were breathing and then someone in a mask jumped out and screamed at us.  I'm sure some people had to rush home to change their underwear after that.
(Pictures taken earlier in the day of Greyfriars)
Needless to say it was a great, albeit terrifying, tour. The tour I did three years ago was with Auld Reekie Tours, this one was with The City of the Dead Tours.  Both we very entertaining but if I had to do one again I would definitely go with The City of the Dead Tour.