Saturday, March 29, 2014

crossing over to county kerry!

After meeting all the couples at breakfast, we were pretty ready to return to our adventure on the road by heading to Co. Kerry... :)

The dog on site was plenty friendly, but he tried to eat my lens cap! Not okay!
We made it back onto the road and were pleased to see the stereotypical Irish sheep... EVERYWHERE. They were so darling! (At least, I thought they were!)

We had a blast driving from Kenmare to County Kerry. These photos will show you clearly of the drought I mentioned in a previous post. It wasn't as green as we anticipated, but man, did we ever see some gorgeous sites?!

I told you you should hire a rental car! Especially if you're prone to spontaneous photoshoots!

We were both taken over by a laughing fit. Sorry... you had to be there.

Check out that crazy windy road!

Made it!!

I KNEW I'd be captivated by the details and Celtic knots everywhere, but I didn't expect to be drawn to so many cemeteries! They were incredible!

We closed most of our days with live music... 
I had been coming down with a sore throat/cold of sorts and, naturally, asked the locals what they suggested as I was thinking it was a result of the different climate. I will add that we were in a pub, so their response should have been expected, but they poured me a generous shot of Hennessy and expected me to guzzle it down. 

Well, I did... and they were right, it certainly numbed the discomfort I was experiencing, but shoot! That stuff's like a kick in the pants! I needed the live music to recover! ;)

The people we were chatting with there were telling us how Gaelic is a 'dead language'. It was really a sad conversation, if you ask me! They were saying how they were native Irish people and Gaelic was posted in many places, but they had generations in their families that had no capability of translating any of it, themselves included. Interesting, but sad to think something so beautiful could come to an end seemingly so sudden. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

kinsale to the stone circle to baltimore to mizen head to kenmare... the adventures continue :)

You can't stay in Ireland without starting your day with a lovely cuppa! (Or at least without being offered one...)
Our trip was off to a phenomenal start. I can't tell you when I first dreamt of visiting Ireland... I honestly think I've actually always dreamt of living in Ireland, but who knows where this life will take me, perhaps there's still time! I had been to Dublin a few months previous and had an absolute ball, but we were only able to visit and explore for a mere 12 hours... and, if I remember correctly it was from like 6am to 6pm - woof! All that to say, our first 12 hours in Kinsale was my dream come true. 

Every person we came in contact with was crazy kind. People would ask us questions with sincere interest and we'd end up running into them later and they'd recall everything we'd spoken about... there came a point where we'd be walking down the street and people would wave from across the street and say, 'Hey! It's the American girls, Amanda and Lauren!' 

I'm not even exaggerating. It was wonderful.
The lovely array of food to choose from aside from our lox omelettes Chrissie cooked up.
Tom and Chrissie were the first lovey's we encountered. On day one they gave us the run down of the best places in town and how to get around and filled us in on their family gossip and the people they'd had visit just the night before. We woke on day two to find this vast array of cereal and museli and fresh fruit and cheese and yogurt. Chrissie insisted we start with our cuppa and something from the table while she whipped up our lox omelettes. 

This pattern continued as our trip went on and worked out perfectly! We'd eat a large, late breakfast, snack in the afternoon, and find a local hot spot for dinner. 

Tom and Chrissie get visitors from ALL over the place, we used Rick Steve's book for a lot of the great ideas and stops during our trip -- it was fun to see that he and his family visited and kept in contact with them as well!

Only the most wonderful hosts in all of Ireland.
Although we were sad to leave Tom and Chrissie and their lovely conversation, we had an agenda to keep! ;) In other words, we had places to explore, miles to cover!

If you're ever planning a trip to Ireland, I suggest hiring a rental car. We had so much freedom in our explorations and such a satisfying trip because we were able to break up the day with stops anywhere and everywhere!

To buffer the drive-time, we had essential tools to keep us in the best of spirits: Fox's ginger creme cookies, the melodies of Bob Marley and Michael Buble, and tips and guidance not only from Rick Steves but also from Amanda's impeccable research and organization.

Each road trip requires certain tools... these were the requirements for this trip: Fox's ginger cremes, Rick Steves' guidance for stops and deals, Bob Marley and Michael Buble, and Amanda's impeccable organization.
Our first stop away from Kinsale was at the Drombeg Stone Circle. Just about 30 kms from Kinsale, Drombeg was easy to find on our way towards Sibbereen and Kilarney. 

Drombeg is one of the better known stone circles in Ireland and was probably part of a small settlement. The circle dates back to ~150BC/150AD, although in the center of the circle pieces of potter and a pot containing human remains that have been carbondated to 800 or 900 BC... Crazy! 

Isn't she gorgeous?? Doesn't this look like I ripped it right out of a Gap catalog?

Stone Circle.

Another stop we made on our travels was in a little port town called, Baltimore. Although the town was lovely, there wasn't too terribly much going on, so we just passed through... 
Baltimore, County Cork

She's awesome.
One of the destinations in our planning was Mizen Head - it was meant to be an all-weather experience and a MUST-SEE... it's located on a spectacular edge of high cliffs with swirly Atlantic Ocean tides surrounding it. The Mizen is knowns for it's wildflowers and sightings of wildlife, dolphins, whales, seals, gannets, kittiwakes, and choughs... Unfortunately, not only were we there during a drought, the Mizen Visitor Centre was under construction. So, no dolphins whales, gannets, kittiwakes, or choughs this visit. We were able to befriend a few darling cows. One of my favorite things to do.

Another reason we'd hoped to make it to Mizen and it's Visitor Centre is that just south of it is the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, Ireland's Teardrop. This was the last landfall seen by many emigrants to America and one of Marconi's first telegraph stations. So, lots of interesting things!

Are those not the most incredible colors you've ever seen?!

Almost to Mizen Head! Quick photo op!

If you have the option of hiring a rental car... or not... I suggest going for it. We were able to do so much of what we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it with this bad boy. This was honestly the most perfect trip.
I just love cows.
Made it!

I can't tell you how many pictures I have like this. :) They never get old!
Home of the coldest loo in the history of going potty anywhere but the Arctic Tundra.
Double stone bridge, cool!
Don't you just love their verbiage?? :)
The view from our B&B in Kenmare.
We arrived to Watersedge B&B only to find this fun little note welcoming us in. We made it! While in Kinsale, our new friends, John and Danny, had mentioned that the very best fish 'n chips in all of Ireland was in Kenmare at Wharton's Traditional Fish & Chips

The locals never lead you astray. 


Unfortunately, we'd decided before we left to taste our way across Ireland with fish 'n chips and were constantly disappointed as this was our first stop. We spoke with the man working that night and he informed us that all of the fish is FRESH cod (never frozen), the chips are hand cut, the batter and tartar sauce are made perfectly right there too... it was an economical meal and the staff was friendly (of course, we're still in Ireland).  

Absolute perfection.

After our phenomenal meal, we managed to find a local pub with traditional Irish music... even an accordion! We deemed that we were crashing someone's first communion or something as there were whole families on the dance floor and a large cake on one of the tables. It was very quaint and refreshing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

kinsale, county cork

I did a LOUSY job of blogging while living in Europe... since it's currently ALWAYS on my mind (it's rough being as nostalgic as I am, honest...) I've decided there's no time like the present.

Although things might not be quite as fresh as they were 4 years ago, I'm going to do my best to re-live them and document what I can manage to tap back into. Photos will help, of this I am sure. :)

The family I was working for found a phenomenal deal on airfare from Geneva to Cork for one week in March, they let me know when they purchased their tickets that I could either go with them as their nanny, stay and work at the house - cleaning and caring for the animals, or take a week off and take advantage of the deal myself. Clearly, I chose the latter of the options.

My friend, Amanda, is a missionary working at the church I attended while living in the Geneva area. (More on the church in another post... I know I say things like that all the time, but it was so wonderful, my tangent would fill up too much of this post that's supposed to be all about my nostalgic memories of incredible Ireland!) Okay, so back to Amanda. :) Amanda works at the wonderful church I had the opportunity to be a part of while living abroad, she currently is working as a part of their church plant, but was the Children's Ministry Coordinator while I was in the area. She's such an incredible girl and a great friend. 

I think our adventurous sides are what initially drew us together. We're also both American, which probably had a little something to do with it. Anywho, she and I had gone to the South of France that previous autumn and I was able to see how talented she is at organizing fun AND relaxing trips. We meshed just perfectly. Have you ever traveled with someone who you absolutely love in everyday life, but can hardly stand or just all of a sudden absolutely clash with while trying to explore and see a new location? Travel, it's tricky. Amanda and I didn't have that issue, and we were both in dire need of some true rest and rejuvenation, so I invited her along on this next rendezvous. 

I'll be honest, I feel a little bad looking back on it, because she took care of EVERYTHING. She made such detailed plans for our timeless trip that everything was beyond perfect.

While we were landing, I remember the little boy I took care of saying, 'Uhh... Mom, are we in Iowa??' Ireland was going through their first drought in years and in landing we only saw flat land with lots of dead grass... it did look a lot like landing here in Iowa. 

Amanda and I and the family I worked for parted our ways. Amanda and I headed south in our trusty 'hired car'. Thankfully, Amanda had learned to drive a manual while she was living in Scotland. She, unlike myself, was already a pro. 

Upon arriving in Kinsale, we asked around for local grub and were directed to Patsy's Corner... this was just the beginning of our gastronomical gluttony. (Who knows how much of the weight I gained from living in Europe was from this trip alone.)
Amanda entering Patsy's Corner.

Amanda and I dining at Patsy's Corner.

Deliciously rich crumble with cream.
After a few hours on a plane and another hour or so getting the hired car, we were ready to see where we'd be sleeping. We had the privilege of meeting Chrissie and Tom at The Olde Bakery B&B, oh my word, they were so unbelievably darling. They were the most perfect hosts for a B&B, so welcoming and knowledgeable about EVERYTHING in Kinsale and all of southern Ireland.  
Our beloved B&B!
We figured with all the information Tom and Chrissie loaded us with, it was time for some exploring! We walked all along the town meeting people left and right. It was so great. (Not to mention refreshing from all the sitting we'd done traveling and calories we'd consumed at Patsy's!) We ended up at historical Charles Fort. I had never been to the Atlantic Ocean, so I was excited to see that we were there! The fort was really neat, but we'd happened to walk past an intriguing golden yellow building entitled 'Bulman'.... we needed to check it out...
Charles Fort.
The Bulman was just as breathtaking and charming on the inside as the outside hinted it would be. We sat next to the fireplace and each had a half pint of our favorites and took in our surroundings. We were both falling hard for this unbelievably welcoming, not to mention, gorgeous-in-every-possible-way land. (Even during a drought!)  
The most perfect pub in the whole entire world! The Bulman!
We enjoyed our drinks and discussed our travels and the folks we'd met all while watching the sky fade to these juicy colors of pink, purple, and copper. The night was coming alive. We hadn't been sitting too long when a local came up to try to get our story. He could see we weren't too quick to share, so he gave us a brief snapshot of his story. Ugh, my heart swells just at the thought of how beautiful all the people we met there are. Ireland in all it's glorious details makes me want to open a B&B and extend the hospitality they so kindly showed us to everyone that walks through my doors. Just throwing that out there. ;) 

John was his name and he'd lived in Kinsale for, I believe he'd said 15 years. He was originally from the lovely land of Wales (or perhaps that was his buddy, Danny...) and had, much like us, fallen in love with the beauty and charm of not only the land, but the people of Kinsale. He created his own business and had no intention of ever leaving. He shared some of his adventures with us of his time in America. He'd gone all along the west coast, starting in Alaska and ending up in South America. His adventures put my mind at ease from some of the things I had been experiencing right then and there. Ah, isn't there such beauty in camaraderie?! 
The sun setting over Kinsale Harbour... a mere 10 meters from the Atlantic Ocean!
One of the things Amanda and I had discussed over our toddies was that we absolutely HAD to find some authentic, traditional Irish music! John assured us that especially on a Thursday night, we'd have no problem. He offered to show us around to ensure we found the truest, most authentic traditional Irish music in the land. I know, I know. STRANGER DANGER. Well, if you know me, that's not always applicable. Regardless of where you are or who you're with, sometimes you just connect with people! We took him up on his offer and headed back to Ye Olde Bakery to freshen up. 
Our gorgeous view walking back to the B&B.
We thought it was beautiful in the daylight, but the view of Kinsale at night reminded us of a world renowned piece of art!
Back in Geneva-land, we had a sweet lil British market run by Jim. He carried these tasty lil treats or something similar, but for quite a fortune compared to what I found them for at the markets in Ireland -- I stocked up and, naturally, cherished every bite.
John was true to his word and met us out on the town with his friend, Danny. Despite their efforts, we never did find true Irish music. We hopped from pub to pub and found plenty of live music (also a nice treat!) but, alas, this wasn't the night for the real thing. John and Danny gave us tips and tricks for the rest of our journey and introduced us to the local 'nightclub' (my first ever!). Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas now always bring memories of gorgeous people with perfect accents. Ahh... Ireland really can't get any more wonderful.
Our search for traditional Irish music ended up being a bit of a wash.... the covers were nice though!