31 January 2012

Spring in Charlottesville

Weather forecast for the next couple of days:



What?!? It's apparently spring in Charlottesville.  I think the weather is trying to trick this baby into coming out...it's warm and cozy out here too in the non-uterine world.  He's a smart one though and will not be fooled.  He is staying until he is good and ready.


23 January 2012

Eire

This is the last post about our trip this SUMMER - yes it has taken me that long to write about our 2 week vacation.  Oh. Well.  Also, this is possibly the longest blog post in the existence of mankind - sorry.

I could just sum up this post in three words: Ireland is beautiful.  BUT - I'm going to write about it in detail because I want to remember the details.  It was so much fun driving around and seeing things at our own pace.  We debated before we went about whether or not to just do a big huge guided tour but decided against it and I'm glad we did.  I so enjoyed driving around the island, just Ryan and me.

We flew in really really early from Paris to Dublin and spent the rest of the day there.  We both really liked Dublin but were also ready to get away from the city since we had just spent over a week in London and Paris.  We definitely didn't see all or even most of what Dublin had to offer because we were just "citied out."  Mostly we walked around and looked at the beautiful architecture.

Trinity College



River Liffey
(P.S. I love that it's the River Liffey instaed of the Liffey River - I told Ryan we should start referring to all lakes and rivers like that but it just doesn't have the same ring to it in the states..the River Mississippi- not nearly as fun to say)

Dublin Castle
There were these really intricate sand sculptures in the courtyard - I have no clue how people make these.


'

St. Patrick's Cathedral
We didn't go inside - I kind of wish we had but we were being a little cheap and had been inside many a cathedral in Paris for free so we just walked around the grounds.

Christ Church Cathedral is another beauty as well.



St. Audeon's Church
We kind of stumbled upon St. Audeon's and I'm so glad we did.  We got a mini-FREE (I love free) tour of the inside.  It is a very small church built during medieval times and is still in use by a congregation.  We wandered around the small church.  Some of it is in ruins but most is preserved.
 Outside of St. Audeon's

 After wandering around trying to find a decently priced Thai restaurant to no avail (yes - I was CRAVING Thai food while in Ireland - I'd like to say that is pregnancy related but I just love Thai food more than any other food in the world) we ended up settling on some pretty disappointing fish and chips.  I didn't think that was possible in Ireland, but it is.  If you go there and want foody advice from us, sorry...we have none.

The next day we headed back to the airport to rent our car and to drive to Cork.  It took about 500 hours to get our rental car and I almost (almost) started second guessing our decision to drive around on our own but once we got the car and GPS we headed out on the open road and I felt better.  We didn't leave Dublin until the afternoon so only really had time to go to Blarney Castle before we checked into our B and B in Cork but the day was still so much fun.  I was afraid Blarney would be this gigantic tourist trap and that we would have to wait in line for hours and hours to tour the castle but my fears were completely unfounded.  There were probably only two other families at Blarney when we got there (this may be because we went later in the afternoon and there was nary a tour bus to be seen).  I was thrilled and loooved Blarney Castle and the grounds.

Outside Blarney Castle


 On our way up to the top


Kissing the Blarney Stone - it makes you eloquent

Even though there are bars that ensure you won't fall to your death and a man holding on to you - I was terrified.  He kept having to tell me to go lower so I could kiss the actual stone.  Hopefully little B will have the  "gift of gab" since his terrified mommy kissed the stone while carrying him.

View from the castle - yes Ireland looks like that ALL over.  It is the most beautiful place I have every been and I grew up in the Pacific NW.


One cool thing about Blarney and about a lot of the castles in Ireland is that they aren't preserved the way that Warwick Castle in England was (some are but we didn't visit any of those) - they are in ruins.  You still get to wander around and there are little placards telling what room was used for what but you have to use your imagination a bit more.  Basically as you're driving through Ireland you see ruin after ruin after ruin - old castles, cathedrals, etc. - very very charming.


We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the Blarney grounds.  This would be the Poison Garden - a beautiful garden composed of deadly plants.  There are signs all over warning you not to touch or eat ANYTHING.  We resisted the temptation and are still alive as you can see.

The Blarney grounds are full of mythology about witches and fairies and curses (so fun).  As you walk around you can read about different myths.  There is no myth to this walkway - it was just pretty and picture-worthy in my mind.

I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure this is a Neolithic (possibly Megalithic) tomb.  Since I teach (well taught) Ancient History I got really excited at any Neolithic site we encountered.

This pretty waterfall was right by an area called the wishing steps.  If you walk up the steps backward with your eyes closed, thinking only of your wish, then it is supposed to come true.

 Accoreding to legend, fairies live in these trees.

View of the castle

Us with the castle again
  Anyway, Blarney was well worth it for us at least.  I don't know if it is usually busier though.

We didn't do much in Cork other than walk around the city a bit - we were pretty tired so we attempted to go to bed early.  Our bed and breakfast was situated on an incredibly busy road though so we got about 2 hours total I'd say...not happy about that.

After Cork we headed to Killarney and stopped at Killarney National Park.  Since we were in Ireland it rained A LOT but we refused to let that dampen the mood - it wouldn't be Ireland without rain anyway.  We still got to see a lot of park since there are so many trees (they make excellent umbrellas).  Killarney was one of my favorite places.  It was nice to hike around and just take in nature.

One of the famed Lakes of Killarney - our camera does not do it justice

 Muckross House

Hiking up to Torc Waterfall:




The waterfall

Our attempts at getting a good picture....
Success

Ross Castle

Another one of the lakes

After Killarney National Park we checked in to our Bed and Breakfast (the only one I really liked) and then headed out again to tour the legendary Ring of Kerry.  It was a little scary to drive it (very narrow roads) but well well worth it.  Plus - Ryan is awesome at driving on really narrow roads.  There are a ton of places to pull off and take in the view of the Atlantic.










Lakes of Killarney again...
 Cute sheepies

Our Bed and Breakfast was right across from Killarney golf course which was where the Irish Open was held the week before.  Ryan was happy.  We stopped by the next morning before we left to go to Limerick.













We spent our second to last day in Ireland touring the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.  The Cliffs are incredible - definitely Ryan's favorite part (probably mine too).  It was really rainy in the morning and I was completely bummed out because I wanted a good view of the cliffs but the closer we got the more it cleared up.  Once we got to the cliffs it was perfect.

















We stayed at the cliffs for quite a long time because they are breathtaking and then drove to find the Burren.

 The Burren is made up of hills and hills covered in limestone.  It was one of the coolest places I've ever driven through.


Another Neolithic tomb...yay!

So a little story about the town pictured below - on our way to Limerick from the Burren we stopped in this cute little Irish town because I saw....THAI food!  Ryan warned me that it probably wasn't going to be good.  I was very excited though so we ate there anyway and it was undoubtedly the worst meal I have ever had in my entire life.  Cute town, gross gross Thai food.

 A look at the narrowness of the way:

On our very last day in Ireland we stopped at Knowth and Newgrange (two Neolithic sites).  Both were really cool.  Knowth is a series of mounds that were dug as burial tombs during Neolithic times, then turned into a farming village, then into a medieval fortress, etc.  They have reconstructed the site as it was during Neolithic times.
 Rock art!

Inside the tomb (you aren't allowed to take pictures inside Newgrange which was actually a lot more exciting than Knowth)


Newgrange
Newgrange was built so that on the winter solstice, and only on this day, the interior lights up.  They show you a re-creation of what that looks like when you are inside but you are basically in complete darkness until it happens.  Ryan kind of got over his fear of tight enclosed spaces and ventured inside - he stayed at the back of the pack though so he could leave if needed.  He has this unexplained fear of things like tombs or caverns caving in and trapping him.  I have many many fears but cannot understand this one.

 Entrance into Newgrange

That was basically our last activity.  Afterward we checked into a hotel near Dublin airport and flew home the next day.  It felt so nice to be back in the good old U.S.A. when we landed but we were a bit sad to be finished with our trip.  We were very tired though so it was nice to be back into a normal routine.  I have so many wonderful memories of this trip that I will never forget.  Trapsing through three countries I had never been to with Ryan was so exciting.  We probably won't get to go on a trip like this for a very long time and I'm grateful we were able to go.

And last picture:  Ryan with our car.  He did SUCH a good job driving on windy, narrow Irish roads.  I couldn't do it because we wanted to save money and rented a manual instead of an automatic.  Not only did he have to drive on the left side of the road but he had to shift with his left hand.  Excellent, excellent job Boo.  And thank you for letting me take a picture even though you didn't want one.