Bucketlist: Ireland

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As I sit here in Antibes, at my favourite cafe, listening to music, tapping my leg to the beats and smiling from ear to ear, I have to be grateful once again to my wonderful Uppa.  Apart from being one of the biggest influences on my life and one of the best people I have spent my time with, he is also responsible for allowing me to travel without worrying about the restrictions of the Green Mamba. And for that, I am eternally grateful.  I see how much trouble my boyfriend and friends have gone through and I raise my glass to him.  Skipping the Non-Eu queues at the airport is just an added bonus, but no need to brag now 🙂

So the whirlwind of leaving my month of pure yoga bliss in Thailand, having one beautifully romantic night in New York with my main man and then being viciously sick from food poisoning the entire way flying across the Atlantic and landing in London, starving, jumping in a cab to finally get to see my beautiful family.  Only to get back in a cab the next morning and head to Gatwick with the fam, to head to Dublin.

After traveling alone for the last month and a bit, it is always quite an adjustment to have my dad wanting to hand me my tickets and collect my passport.  Bless him, but you have to smile and allow him to run his roost.

What a city.  Having come from an incredibly quiet and introverted month, it was quite a shock to the system, to arrive to the major bustle and energy that Dublin is all about.  But, it was beautiful.  I also had to share a double bed with my brother, which has not happened since we were four- an AirBNB mix up that landed up providing some entertainment!  But we were super central, surrounded by some amazing bars, a really lovely coffee shop, art galleries and of course beautiful churches.  With no time to waste, we dropped our belongings off and went exploring, walking around the freezing streets.  Eventually adapting to the noises, I loved it.  Our first night found us in a bar, sipping on Guinness and GnTs and listening to an amazing musician strumming on his guitar and blessing us with his beautiful voice.  I really was waiting for my favourite movie, Ps I Love You, to start playing itself out…I was waiting for Gerard Butler to pick up his guitar and start strumming….I’m still waiting.

Waking up in our minuscule apartment and strolling down the stairs to grab a coffee and breakfast, brought back all the reasons why I love Europe.  That cafe culture just makes me so delighted.  I LOVE how everyone is on the streets, walking, drinking coffee, singing to themselves, picking up their newspaper, shouting at their neighbour.  It just has so much soul.  The kind of soul I just love.

We decided to jump on The Red Bus Tour and explore the city while being fed the vital knowledge of our roots.  So there we were wrapped up in our warmest clothes, beanies and scarves, braving the icy wind at the top of the open roof bus.  The four Days exploring Dublin.  I could feel Uppa’s approval beaming down from the sky.  He must have been one happy man up there.  He loved Ireland.

The most memorable stop for me was going to the Guinness Storehouse.  It was so well put together and such an incredible experience to see how Guinness had taken off and how it is still such a powerhouse today.

Eventually, once the cold had got to us, it was only fitting to head for an irish Coffee at one of the O’bars (You know O’Hallagans, O’Reillys, O’shea’s- I can’t remember which one) but it was good.

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And then it was time to for the countryside- a quiet reprieve.  We had rented a car (matchbox- more like it) and with all our luggage, Mike and I could barely see each other in the back seat.  Comforted by some good tunes and the company of my family, we road-tripped our way across the country, amazed by the rolling green, the dry-stone walling and the roaming cows.  It was so vast, so lush and incredibly beautiful.

The town, Gort, we decided to stay in, was tiny and if you blinked you would have missed it- twice!  But it was quaint and lovely and felt typically Irish, with all neighbours knowing each other.  our host would visit us every morning and chat away.  She was really lovely.  Mike and I were grateful to have our own rooms.  The rolling hills and grey skies were exactly what I had expected to see when coming to Ireland.  The location was perfect for us to venture out each day further afield.

That night we went out for dinner in The Latin Quarter in Gallway and I loved it!  It had such a great vibe, with a brilliant pedestrian street packed with a selection of different restaurants and bars.  It was so hard to choose which restaurant to eat at, I wanted to try them all.  The one we did choose was awesome, the whole trip our restaurant selection was actually commendable. Not one bad meal!

And that’s exactly what we did, the next day we climbed into the car and drove to a little town where we would see a demonstration of Sheep herding.  I know it sounds like a bizarre thing to do, but we weren’t the only ones who had ventured all the way out there, and it was far! Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and a couple of other famous people had their mug shots with the guy who gave us the deme.  Jen and Owen actually even shot a part of Marley & Me with our hosts sheep and dogs. Famous.

It was actually really cool to watch the shepher, Joe, demonstrating how with very simple whistles and commands, he can get these sheep dogs to herd and move the sheep around his farm.  I do actually think it is a very cool thing to see!  And I got to hold a little lamb, which was so fluffy and cute!

Again, the cold chased us away to find a coffee somewhere and oh my goodness, we found the best spot, a beautiful Old Castle – Ashford Castle- nestled in the next town!

But my favourite day, was our last day, the day when we drove even further out to The Burren of County Clare.  We left very early and really made the most of it.  Initially we were going to cycle around, but I am pretty glad we didn’t because it would have been a seriously far cycle. We started off seeing the history of The Burren in Kilfenora, in a very well put together museum, which I am glad we did, because we then landed up going and seeing all the sites after that and it all just made so much more sense.

Dry-stone walling was a very prominent feature everywhere we went and I must be honest, it is an incredible art and really looks beautifully organic as it sits so naturally in the landscape separating the different properties from each other.

These photos are taken from Catherconnel Fort, a really impressive Fort built purely out of Dry Stone Walling.  It had been excavated by archaeologists and it was really interesting to see where they had found artefacts, rather recently too, from the inhabitants.  The way they lived, far more simply than us, really makes you realise how far we have come from the bare necessities of life!

I could have done without the next stop, but the boys were dying to see this Poulnabrone-Dolmen tomb, which was supposed to be massive…now I dunno…I wouldn’t say race back there….

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Mike and my dad seemed to love it, while my mom and I giggled and took some pics.

The day just went from strength to strength (bar the tomb), as we landed up at Doolin Cave, starving (again!).  I also had a telephonic interview while we sat sipping on our soup.  trying hard to focus as our tour group slowly started moving and wanting to head down into the depths of the cave, where the biggest stallactite in Ireland was hiding.  It’s weird, I have strangely followed and seen some really amazing stallactites in my life, without having too much of a vested interest in them.  But this one, was something else!  It is 7.3 metres in length and it is still growing.  It really is a beautiful sight to see!

You do have to go down a lot of stairs, so if you are claustrophobic, be warned!  There is no quick escape.

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And as I said, the day just kept getting better.  As we drove further towards the coast, we landed up at the Cliffs of Moher, and it was 100% my favourite thing that we did in Ireland.  I just wish we had packed a picnic and had dinner on the cliffs (one of my favourite things to do).  It was impressionable and remarkable.  The great expanse of the cliffs and the raging force of the water below, all created a very dramatic setting.  We actually all found ourselves sitting in silence for a bit, watching the birds diving and gliding around us.

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From the site:

“They stretch for 8km (5miles), as the crow flies, along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland and reach 214m (702 feet) at their highest point at Knockardakin just north of O’Brien’s Tower. Here you can have a world class one in a million visitor experience….”

I sadly had to leave the next day but I had had the best trip with my family. I am so blessed to have people like them who are so easy to travel with and whom I just love spending my time with.  I really am glad I finally got to go to Ireland, it made me feel connected to my Uppa again, and I feel like it came at the right time.

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