Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Luck of the Irish

     I don't always go on crazy trips during spring break, but when I do I leave as early as possible and get back at the last minute before work.

      My roommate Lori and I had randomly joined our stake 'dance group' to perform in the basketball half time show because we wanted to try something new.  That's how we found ourselves, two months later, performing a routine in the half-time show that we had only just completed the day before. (If you haven't seen the dance yet, and you want to, then click on the link above.) A routine that finished at 9 pm, leaving me plenty of time to get to the airport with my other roommate, (whom, for the sake of the blog we shall call Leiny) for our 10:50 pm flight.

     While red-eye flights are quite the experience, they are not recommended by 8 out of 10 mattress stores for a good nights sleep.  Which is why we found ourselves really jealous of these random homeless-looking people. Luckily Leiny and I are women of action! So we found cots of our own and slept for the next 3 hours or so until we were ready to face Boston.
     The first thing on the agenda was Harvard because what else should one do when one finds oneself with a 10 hour layover in Boston? We went and educated ourselves, and then moved on fairly quickly because it was actually a little anticlimactic. (Except for these cool gates.  I can't deny that they are very cool.)

I also can't deny that the best part about Harvard could easily have been the little cafe nearby that we found.  It had some really delicious hot chocolate plus this sandwich that is manna from above.

     After eating we went to a museum with an indoor garden and quite an impressive collection of random pieces of art that I wasn't fully able to appreciate due to my lack of sleep and lack of knowledge.  However,  Leiny and I were fully able to appreciate the couches we found in the museum lounge area. We definitely passed out for an hour there but in a completely dignified way. Don't worry.

     To cut a long story short (which I'm not well-known for in my blogs) we had a bit of trouble getting to the airport, with the metro being stalled for quite a while with us on it, our uber driver not being able to find us, to me finally hailing my first taxi and Leiny totally missionary-ing him in the car, but we made it to the airport with at least 30 minutes to spare for our flight to Ireland.  

     Like an idiot, I stayed up the whole flight (very unlike me. Sleeping on airplanes is something I'm so skilled at I've considered including it on my resume. I'm not sure what I was thinking watching movies.) 

     Cue me skipping some more of our troubles in the Heath-row airport during our connection and more troubles at the Dublin airport because that's not the fun part of the adventure to (duh duh duh duh!) Lenny driving on the right side of the car on the left side of the road! That first hour of driving to our first hotel (*ahem* castle) was intense-we are still unclear if it was more intense for the passenger or the driver.  But we made it! And look how cute our room key was. Oh, and our room too. (Despite our room key clearly saying '106' I wonder if numbers in Ireland are slightly different than America.  The fact that at least 5 different couples mistook our room for theirs and tried to walk in on us in the 12 hours we were there is the only reason I wonder.) 
Just to give you an idea. Here's a picture from our window.  

We were exhausted, but determined to fix our internal clocks to Ireland time so we cleaned up in our room, and then went for a walk around the grounds.  This is us taking the first of many selfies for the week in Ireland.  Here's what we could see of the castle from our walk. Pretty sweet, huh? 
Can you believe we got to sleep here? Ya, we couldn't either. This is Cabra Castle in Cavan, Ireland. 

      We had every intention of waking up early and driving 2 hours to the closest ward when we made our itinerary for this trip, but what we didn't account for was Leiny and I having the mutual super power of SLEEP.  I definitely fell asleep on my bed at 7:30 pm the night before and didn't wake up until almost 11 am the next morning-successfully cutting into our plans. 

(While reading this part please listen to this song. )
 In an effort to improvise, we went to a park nearby that the hotel staff recommended called Dun a Ri. Naturally Leiny climbed the first crumbling wall we could find. Maybe she thought she was a monkey? Then she had a mid-life identity crisis and thought she was a frog. (It was a rough trip for her.)
     Now imagine us exploring this cool forest while Leiny had the Tangled song playing on repeat and you can imagine perfectly what it was like for us. I should have taken more pictures of the park, but to give you an idea of what the park was like here's one from online. (Yes, it really did look like this.)

    We didn't want to spend too long exploring this park because we had big plans for today, and when I say big I mean big. Like Giant. Particularly Giant's Causeway.  If you don't know what that is, that's okay. I didn't either until I planned this trip. But to give you an idea, here's a picture.

 Ok just kidding. These are just some run of the mill epic cliffs in Ireland that were at Giant's Causeway, and yet, somehow, this is not the cool part here. Take a gander at this: 

If you're also wondering why I'm sitting on a bunch of nature made stone hexagons then allow me to explain by copying straight from the internet. 

"Columnar basalt is unlike normal basaltic lava as it cools. When cooling rates are fairly uniform, with the heat from the lava escaping at regular intervals, it contracts and fractures fairly evenly, leading to tall, well-developed, generally hexagonal basalt columns."

    After explor-ing Giant's Cause-way a bit we headed off to our next desti-nation: the Lough Eske Castle in Donegal, Ireland! This is what we drove up to and I immediately questioned why I don't live somewhere with castles.  We were fairly excited about the next two nights. 
     The next morning was pretty fun. I don't think Donegal is exactly a tourist destination so we really felt like we could see Ireland at it's most Irishy. We started out by exploring Donegal Castle. This was one to visit, not sleep in. Leiny looks pretty comfortable in this chair. I think she'd have fit right into castle life.

     After the castle we explored the town a bit. It's fun to be able to make our own schedule and do what we want. We visited a bunch of different shops because I was desperate to find some sort of Ireland sweatshirt to wear for the week. That tiny little blue hoodie I brought was not sufficient. We also grabbed other souvenirs and some super delicious coconut shrimp with mango sauce for lunch.
     In the afternoon we drove to Enniskillen, an island town.
This was the castle there, which looks really cool from the outside but that's about all we saw since it was closed when we arrived. We parked and walked around this pretty park area for a bit before continuing our exploration of the new city.
  I'll just do a quick onslaught of pictures of the city so you can see what we did.


While we were crossing a bridge during our exploration a group of runners ran by so we joined them and just started running too.  Apparently people are much too shy, too polite, or too obsessed with running because no one even said a word to the strangers intruding on their running club.  What a shame. 

We had one more night at Lough Eske so here's another picture so you can appreciate how great it was again.  Good news: we paid $1,000 to fly to Ireland to read in a castle library. 

Here's a casual picture of me on a dragon because why not?

It was sad to say goodbye to Lough Eske, but we had more big plans for today. We drove 3 hours just to go see the Cliffs of Moher because you simply canNOT go to Ireland and not visit these cliffs. Or so we heard anyway. So even though the roads were terrible and terrifying at least the scenery is great.  Plus, we listened to audio books which can make almost any amount of driving bearable!

     Even though people do nothing but sing praises for these cliffs, our GPS was telling us that we were 5 minutes away and we couldn't even see them yet.  I'm pretty sure Leiny may have even asked "Oh cliffs, where are you?" which sounds ridiculous but was an extremely valid question the closer we got.  It wasn't until we parked our car at the visitor parking lot, paid our 5 euros, and walked for a minute that was saw them. But what a sight!
Just look at the beautiful green and how majestic it is.  Oh, and behind me you will see the cliffs.

When taking photos try to be as candid as possible. I think I nailed it.  Then the standard roommate selfie. (You tired of those yet? Hopefully not, the week is not even close to being over!)

We stayed as long as the cliffs were 'open' before heading to Bunratty. This was a cool looking village  that I had to take a picture from online to show you because it was closed by the time we got there.  We really wanted to make it earlier to explore this little village, but with all the driving our day was kind of sucked away.  
                   We did get to meet up with some of our Utah friends for this banquet though. Here's Bunratty Castle where we ate the banquet. 
     Nothing forges friendships like medieval banquets where you get to eat with your hands and a 'dagger.' It was so fun. We had a four course meal while those people in costumes (in the picture) serenaded us with a sweet medley of medieval music. Not only that, we befriended the ladies next to us who were celebrating a 40th birthday. Turns out one of them was a teacher too, so, as you can imagine, we had plenty to talk about.  Interestingly enough in Ireland there is no such thing as Lucky Charms and if you really want to fall into the Irish norm then be a teacher who marries an Irish farmer. 
     The banquet didn't end until 11 pm, and Leiny and I were not looking forward to a 2 hour drive home on those crazy Irish roads. So, instead, we crashed at Jodi and Christyn's airbnb. I was awfully sad to miss our first night at Kilronan Castle, but we were more awake during the drive in the morning anyway.
    We went to our room to clean up and then got lunch at Lough Key Forest Park. (Thank you internet for providing photos when I forget to take them. You might ask how could I forget, but I had a pretty intense day. Let me explain.)

     Our lady friends at the banquet laughed at us because we were spending the whole day in Roscommon, Ireland. Apparently, that's like the equivalent of going to the US and then being excited to go to Arkansas.  No one in the country thinks it's cool (except for people from AR obviously because we can fully appreciate it.)    They laughed long and hard at us when we told them our plans for the day, but it was one of the most fun day so far.  
   First we did this really nerdy thing called the Boda Borg. When I say nerdy I mean that they use the word 'questing' in the explanation. "Boda Borg is Questing. Guests are transported into a real-world gaming environment; an experience we call Questing. Teams of 3-5 guests literally move through our Quests tackling a variety of mental and physical challenges. Success in the first challenge means entry into the next challenge and so on."  In layman terms it was like a series of escape rooms broken into mini challenges that you had to complete to move on. It was so fun that no one was ready to move on when our time was up.
    Luckily we also planned to zip line today since it was in the same park and sounded just as fun.  When I imagined zip lining I'm sure it was similar to what most of you thought when you read that. Something like this, right?
Instead, what we got was an obstacle course in the trees.  No complains though, it was right up my alley even if it was unconventional and unexpected.  Yup, I hooked myself to that bike and road it through the trees on that bridge thing.
 And then I also rode a snowboard.  I can now truthfully say I have snowboarded in the trees just as many times as I have snowboarded in the snow.  Let's not forget the rope we Tarzan swung onto and then had to climb while simultaneously disengaging our clips from the rope. Somehow I didn't get pictures of the rock
climbing wall that they threw in at the end when you're already exhausted, but yes we rock climbed  wall that was also up
on a tree.  Does it sound crazy? That's probably why I loved it.  We took pictures with the workers who were nice enough to stay
with us the whole time (since everyone else left because it was getting late and dang cold.)

     We drove back to Kilronan Castle for dinner before saying goodbye to the girls. Here's us taking more normal photos. Kilronan looks cool on the outside, but the inside was equally cool. By far this had the most castle-like interior so far and I could almost have easily spent my whole day lounging around the castle instead of exploring the country.

 Even this gate thing that we had to drive under to get to the castle was really cool!  Our last night in Kilronan before driving to Dublin in the morning we decided to watch Leap Year.  When else would I be able to pause the movie and google map how far from the scenes? We got to bed late and woke up equally late (the beauty of spring break.)                                                 Luckily Dublin, unlike the rest of Ireland, did not shut down at five, so we were able to explore from 4-9 pm. The following photos are a result. I had to make this one big because it legitimately looks like we've discovered Hogwarts here. 

 We tried to sneak into this cool church. After failing twice we figured we should call it good with a picture. Then we found a crepe place for dinner. Super Irish, I know. 

 I really enjoyed the shops, the pubs, the food, and the people, but then it was time to say goodbye to Dublin. :(
Dublin at night.

     All I'm going to say about the trip home is that I finally did it right. After staying up the whole night before our flight, I slept the short flight to Heathrow and then I slept the entire flight (minus dinner) to Boston. 
     Boston itself can be summed up fairly quickly. We got in, found our airbnb, and (thanks to the recommend-ation of a homeless man at the metro) decided to go to the Red Sox game that night.  It was a lot of fun to go even though the team got creamed. 
     The next day was packed. We ate breakfast at a place called the Black Thorn, an Irish restaurant ironically. Then we went on a duck tour of the city where we got to hear about the history of Boston while riding a bus that turned into a boat partway through.                                                                                                             
    The tour ended at the aquarium so we went through there too. It was pretty intense and adorable. I mean look at these tiny sea horses.  I got to touch sharks and sting rays too so I can't complain. 

     We ended the night with a little shopping at Primark. Now before you go and get surprised that I'm going shopping, just keep in mind that I found a tank top for 98 cents.  Then we went to the Boston Commons (the park to be at in Boston) and chilled for a bit until our play. We had tickets for The King and I at the Boston Opera House. It was a fun play and the building is amazing!   
     We were a bit lazier Sunday, but had some well deserved rest. Especially since our flight didn't land until midnight and we had work the next morning.
     I will end here since I'm sure I'm already over my page limit or something. Well, if there were page limits for blogs I'm sure I'd frequently exceed them. I hope you all enjoyed reading about Ireland at least half as much as I enjoyed going.  (Maybe a third?)  If you haven't already seen our Ireland music video then I suggest you watch it because it's great. We've effectively summed up 7 days of Irish travel in a 4 minute music video   Do you feel silly for reading all of this now that I've given you this shortcut?  Hopefully not. :)

Until next time!

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