On the Road: Ireland (Part 5)

Five months later, here is the last installment of our Ireland travels!

On the drive around the Ring of Kerry, I had declared it my new favorite place in the world…but that was before our drive around the Dingle Peninsula.

Located on the westernmost tip of Ireland, cliffs and ocean views dominate the peninsula. The winding roads, cliffs and ocean views that dominate the peninsula make it even more dramatic than the Ring of Kerry. I felt like i was standing at the edge of the world on most of our photo stops!

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We stopped for lunch and a stroll in the town of Dingle, the peninsula’s main town.

176With Fungie, the dolphin who lives in Dingle Harbor

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Before leaving, we tried out Murphy’s Ice Cream, which is handmade right in town. The flavors here range from classic vanila and chocolate to the more unique combinations that showcase the flavors of the region. They are pretty generous with the samples here, so I think I ended up trying almost every flavor before settling on a delicious combination of Kerry Cream and Carmelized Brown Bread.

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Upon leaving Dingle, we drove through the Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland.. Of all of the driving that we did in Ireland, this road was the scariest—full of twists and turns, and so narrow at some points that two cars could barely share the road. But, the views…

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Our last stopover was in Limerick, chosen so that we could head out to the Cliffs of Moher the next day. For the most part, the weather was not on our side that day. But, we were patient and waited for the fog to roll out a bit and the views did not disappoint.

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We made a final stop in Galway, which was packed to the gills on a Saturday afternoon. It was late in the day, so we didn’t do much but stroll through the winding streets of the Old Latin Quarter and stop in a few shops. But, one of the funniest moments of the trip happened here, when we found ourselves stopping for dinner at a restaurant in which every table included a small child (or two, or three). It was the kind of place we would have avoided at all costs during our former child-free lives, and it sort of summed up how much life—and travel—can change when you add a tiny human to the mix.

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It is definitely a bit more exhausting to travel with a small child; Both Chester and I commented that we felt like we were on higher alert than usual, while we watched out for B and kept an eye out for signals of potential meltdowns. Still, we had a fantastic time and I would do it over again in a heartbeat!

On the Road: Ireland (Part 4)

It’s been awhile since I wrote anything about Ireland…or since I wrote about anything, really. It’s really difficult to stay up past 9 p.m. these days. But, on the days when I can, I’ll slowly but surely keep making my way through the rest of the trip photos and posts.

In my last post, I mentioned we made Killarney our base for the portion of our trip where we drove the Ring of Kerry, a scenic loop that showcases the varied landscapes of the region, including coastal towns, beaches, mossy hillsides and green pastures that stretch as far as the eye can see.

As you might imagine, this one of the most poplar tourist routes in Ireland, attracting bikers, walkers, tour buses and individual drivers alike. So, we followed the recommended strategy to go the opposite route of the big busses so that we didn’t get stuck behind the the entire way (start in Killarney, stop in Kenmare, and then head toward Killorglin before heading back to Killarnery; the busses generally travel via Killorglin first).

This was the only day of our trip where the weather was less than ideal. It rained most of the day, but at least we spent most of it in the car and the low fog made the view along the way even more dramatic.

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Portmagee

Also dramatic was B’s reaction when we would stop for photos. We made a lot of short stops along the way and it is difficult to wrangle a toddler in and out of the car every ten minutes or so. So, we started to take turns getting out of the car for quick photo ops, and there was a lot of this going when one of us would leave the car.

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A stop in Kenmare provided a nice break from the drive and plenty of restaurants to choose from for lunch. There are three main streets in Kenmare, all of which come together to form a triangle, so it’s very easy to navigate. On a sunny day, I could have easily spent a substantial amount of time here just wandering around.

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We stopped at Jam, an adorable cafe/bakery, where I wanted one of everything from the pastry case. But, I settled for just this lovely Banoffee Pie.

Banoffee pie

After lunch, we took a little stroll through town. B and Arthur kept out of the rain in their fancy backpack/stroller.

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You might think that the scenery gets old after awhile, but I think the views were even more outstanding on our way back to Killarney. We even made a stop to visit with some wildlife.

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There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing the two of them happy together.138

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The entire drive is about 125 miles round trip, and took the whole day (we left our hotel around 10 a.m. and returned around 6 p.m.). As usual, Chester was behind the wheel the entire time and did a fabulous job navigating the narrow roads along the way. At first, I wasn’t too sure that I would enjoy an entire day in the car, but this was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. There were so many “wow!” moments along the way and it was the perfect way to experience all of the beauty that Ireland has to offer.

On the Road: Ireland (Part 3)

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Family selfie at Blarney Castle

The next stop on our Ireland itinerary was Blarney Castle, located just a short drive from our temporary home base in Cork.

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The castle is, of course, best known for being the home of the Blarney Stone. The castle was no more than a simple wooden structure when it was built in 1200 and the current stone structure was erected in 1446.

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The interior of the castle is mostly in ruins. The 100+ stairs that wind their way to the top of the castle, where the stone is located are quite narrow and uneven. It’s definitely not a trek for someone with claustrophobia and/or a toddler. So, one of us strolled around the gardens with B while the other made the climb.

The exact origins of the stone are debated. But, legend has it that those who kiss it are bestowed the gift of eloquence. The stone is set in a wall over the battlements, so to reach it you have to lay down and lean backwards. Back in the day, this was quite a treacherous undertaking, since there weren’t any safeguards in place to make sure you didn’t fall to your death.

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View from the top

Yours truly made it all the way to the top, got into position to kiss the stone, and then made the mistake of looking down over the battlements. Even though there is a metal grate, a railing to hold on to, and a capable assistant to make sure tourists don’t die, I convinced myself that I would fall over the side and chickened out without completing the task at hand.

Chester was not such a scaredy-cat…although he seems to be no more eloquent than he was prior to our visit.

Blarney_Kiss

Continuing on from Blarney, we drove to the harbor town of Kinsale. I will probably remember this site as one of the most spectacular parenting fails of the trip. B fell asleep in the car and we made the mistake of waking her up so we could go exploring. We should have just stuck to our tried-and-true practice of hanging out in the parking lot until she woke up on her own. I’m sure we were quite a sight as we tried to coax a squirming, screaming toddler into her stroller in this quaint, pictureqesue little town.

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Definitely not happy.

Fortunately, all was forgiven once we brought her a cute little hat. Retail therapy is apparently effective even at an early age.

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There were lots of cute little restaurants scattered around town, but unfortuantely many of them only opened at dinner time. We stumbled upon the Lemon Leaf Cafe, however, and ended up having on of our favorite meals of the trip there. B enjoyed a pancake with Nutella that was twice the size of her head and Chester and I chose two of the specials of the day—a salmon burger for him and an open faced crab and lobster salad sandwich for me. The seafood was some of the freshest that I have ever had! I wish that I had room for dessert because the pastry case was overflowing with delicious looking cupcakes, towering layer cakes and pies. Next time!

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Main Street Kinsale

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Colorful shops line the narrow streets

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We headed back to Cork for the night, and were up bright and early the next day to hit the road to Killarney. On the way to town, we stopped for a stroll in Killarney National Park, the first national park to be established in Ireland.

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Muckross House, which was donated to the Irish nation in 1932 and became the centerpiece of the park.

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Muckross Lake; you can rent one of those cute little jaunting carriages to take you around the park.

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Torc and Mangerton Mountains in the background.

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Ross Castle

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Chasing the ducks…and, yes, that is a leash.

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As was the case in Cork, we didn’t do too much exploring in the town of Killarney itself. But, we did stay in an adorable hotel that served amazing scones at breakfast and enjoyed a nice dinner (fish and chips!) at a place Cronin’s, right across the way. I would definitely recommend this stop as a base if your trip includes a drive around the Ring of Kerry, which was on our itinerary for the next day. More on that…as soon as I get around to editing those photos!

On the Road: Ireland (Part 2)

After our two days in Dublin, we packed up the world’s tiniest rental car and hit the road. Our first stop was Powerscourt Estate, which is set against the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains and is known for acres upon acres of landscaped gardens. The house on the grounds was originally a 13th century castle and was renovated throughout the centuries. The most recent renovations took place in the mid-1990s, after the house had been destroyed by a fire 20 years earlier.

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Incidentally, Powerscourt had probably the best cafe of any tourist attraction that I have ever visited. Make sure to stop for lunch if you ever visit.

After that, it was off to Lisnavagh, another estate. I was totally confused when we first arrived because the place was completely deserted. Turns out, this is actually still a family’s home and Chester explained that we were here to visit the tree that he had planted for our 5th anniversary! William, one of the owners/managers of the estate was kind enough to show us the tree and share a bit of the estate’s history with us. In the 1800s, it was one of the most advanced and efficient farms in the country. As the estate system fell away, and Lisnavagh was downsized quite a bit and William and his family developed other ways to sustain what remained, including hosting weddings and making cutting boards out of the timber that naturally falls on the property. The tree planting program also generates a bit of revenue and helps to maintain and repopulate the surrounding woodlands.

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Official owners of an oak tree!

In true Chester fashion, it was truly a memorable and thoughtful way to mark this milestone. I’m glad B got to be there with us, and maybe we’ll all return someday to visit our tree when it’s a bit bigger!

After that, we headed to Cork, which would be our home base for the next two nights. Although it might have been more fun to stay in one of the cute little towns that we passed through along the way, we decided to stick to the big cities with easy access to things like grocery stores and medical care, just in case those things were needed for B. Plus, it was centrally located for the next two major sights on our itinerary: Blarney Castle. More on that next time!

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We did zero exploring in Cork, but at least had a nice view of the city from our hotel window!

On the Road: Ireland (Part 1)

I wrote a little bit in a previous post about our adventures in Ireland, but I am just getting around the organizing the photos from the trip. With the slow pace that I work on this kind of thing lately, that should take me all summer. But, as the summer heats up around here, I’ll be happy to relive memories of the much cooler climate of the Emerald Isle, starting with this post about our time in Dublin.

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Pre-flight selfie at PHL

The first day of our trip felt like the Longest. Day. Ever. We left Philly at 8 a.m. and flew to Boston, where we had an eight hour layover. We met Bridget and Bill for a quick lunch and then headed back to the airport for our 6 p.m. flight to Dublin. B was great on the flight. She was easily entertained by the goings-on of airplane travel and distracted by an endless supply of cheese crackers. She ended up passing out right around her normal 8:00 bedtime and slept until we arrived in Dublin, very early the next morning.

Our hotel was very centrally located near the historic St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street (one of the main shopping thoroughfares) and the lively Temple Bar. We made our way there from the airport in a taxi at the crack of dawn, but could see that there were still plenty of people that were still happily partying it up at the pubs, even at 6 a.m.!

Since it was ridiculously early, there was not a room ready for us. B made sure we all knew how displeased she was about being awake at such an early hour. Chester and I tried to keep her calm and eventually, the hotel manager even resorted to bribery, giving her milk, a banana, an orange and a Kit Kat (all of which I’m pretty sure were from his own lunchbox) in an attempt to get her to shut up.

Finally, to keep from waking up everyone at the hotel, we went down the street to a cute little café to have breakfast while we waited for our room. Trying to keep a jet lagged toddler from a full meltdown while in a restaurant is an experience I will be happy never to repeat again. If it was just Chester and I, I’m sure we would have pushed through the exhaustion, loaded up on coffee and just wandered the neighborhood for a bit. But, with B in tow, the only thing I wanted to do was park myself in chair and hope she would fall asleep. So, we returned to the waiting area of the hotel to do just that and thankfully, our room was ready by mid-morning.

We all felt much better after long naps and headed out to explore in the early afternoon. Dublin is an eclectic mix of medieval and modern (there’s even a 24-hour Starbucks!). As you stroll through the main streets you feel like you could be in an U.S. city. But, then you round the corner and you catch a glimpse of Dublin castle or an old church and you remember all of the history contained within the winding streets.

Our first stop was Dublin Castle, which was originally built as a Viking fortress during the 13th century. It was destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries and served as the center for British rule in Ireland until 1922.

4The tower at the right is the only surviving remnant of the medieval castle
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Riding in style

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A pretty empty courtyard on this particular day, but the following week it would be packed with people as the announcement was made that Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage after a popular vote

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Old + new

Then, it was down the street to visit Christ Church, the he oldest building in Dublin, dating from 1028. The exterior is probably quite impressive, but unfortunately, much of it was covered in scaffolding for renovations at the time of our visit. Still, the stained glass and wall-to-wall mosaic tile floors inside made the visit worthwhile.

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Further on down the road is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a bit younger (dating from 1191), but it ultimately won out in the race for supremacy with Christ Church, and serves as the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland. Fun fact: Johnathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and former cathedral Dean, is buried here.

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We ended the day enjoying some Irish music and pub fare at the Old Storehouse, one of the more family-friendly pubs in Temple Bar (i.e. one of the few places not overrun with the bachelorette party crowd).

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The next day, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (tip: purchase your tickets in advance, and skip the line at the door). There is an interesting exhibition that explains the symbolism behind and the process of creating the lavishly decorated 9th century manuscript of the four Gospels. Pages from two volumes of the manuscript are on display. Just as impressive is the Old Library, which houses more than 200,000 books.

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And, after that, we just wandered a bit more, taking in all the sites. I’m pretty sure that B’s favorite part of Dublin was meeting a real live leprechaun!

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52Ha’penny Bridge, the first pedestrian bridge to cross the Liffey River

We barely scratched the surface of what Dublin has to offer in our two days there. There were a few museums that we would have liked to check out, but we’ll save them for next time when B will appreciate them a bit more. I can’t wait to go back!