finding joy in the journey

What a day. Ugh. This was definitely the “worst” day of our trip. Wednesday morning started out wonderful with an amazing breakfast served in the common area at Merrion Townhouse. There was a fresh cheese plate (bleu, Swiss, white and red cheddar), a meat tray (ham and salami), fresh fruit, toast, hard boiled eggs, tea and coffee, and basket full of fresh warm-from-the-oven scones and croissants with butter and jam. It was so delightful and very yummy! After breakfast, we set off on the hour drive to Connemara National Park. We had looked at their website online and picked out a trail to hike for the day. We saw some beautiful scenery along the way- wild, open spaces and much more uninhabited than other parts of Ireland.

I was hoping to stop at Kylemore Abbey for a quick picture (the abbey sits right on the edge of a lake and is gorgeous!), but when we arrived the whole facade of the building was covered in scaffolding. I was quite disappointed to say the least. We headed on to Connemara National Park…only to find that the park was closed due to a helicopter landing on Diamond Head to perform maintenance! Whhhhyyyy?!?! At this point, I was so frustrated because hiking around the park was half of our day’s plan, we had just driven an hour to get there, and the website hadn’t even mentioned anything about it being closed. And the weather was turning cloudy and rainy. I know that when traveling stuff doesn’t always go as planned, but we had been so lucky so far I was hoping to continue our streak!

With our morning plans foiled, we decided to drive to Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland. A friend of ours had recently lived abroad in Ireland and hiked to the top (she shared some amazing pics of the view on her Facebook), so we thought we should give it a go. Well, we only made it up about halfway up before calling it quits. The terrain was so rocky and quite hard to walk on- it went from shifty gravel to small boulders. It didn’t help that my boots were a tad big and my socks kept slipping and giving me blisters and Josh was having major foot pain and could walk only at the slowest pace. The weather at this time was also quite terrible with cold winds blowing right on us and rain pelting us. The view towards the beginning was beautiful, but as we kept on it got foggier and foggier until we couldn’t see anything but the path right in front of us. With all of this, I was miserable and we agreed to head back down.   

 

The best part of the whole mountain hike was on the way down when I turned around and saw a ram walking by. He walked slowly behind me, turned, and posed perfectly! I couldn’t have timed it better! He was so majestic!

Despite how yucky it was for us, I would like to go back again someday and hike to the top…as long as the weather is nicer!

We were tired, soaked, and almost numb from the cold, so we found the nearest restaurant we could, The Tavern. I had the special soup of the day (carrot and cumin soup) with a home baked ham and cheese sandwich. Josh had the traditional aged Irish beef steak and Guinness casserole (slow cooked beef with Guinness, root vegetables, and creamed potatoes). The food was very warm and tasty. It hit the spot just right after our cold, rainy mountain hike.  

From The Tavern, we had a two and a half hour drive to Donegal where we were staying for the night. It was a rather uneventful drive and one of our longest of the whole trip. We stayed at The Gateway Lodge in Donegal. When we pulled up, it reminded me of motels back home. The Gateway Lodge was way nicer though! We had a huge room, at least a king size bed, a little sitting area, and an en suite bathroom…with a towel warmer! If you’ve never used a towel warmer, you’re missing out for sure. I really wish we had one in our house!

The woman at the reception desk had given us coupons for Market House Restaurant, so after we got our luggage into the room, we walked the short distance to there. Market House Restaurant is located inside Abbey Hotel Donegal. I loved the lights down low atmosphere and the decor- it was traditional but with a modern twist. For an appetizer, we shared the warm goat’s cheese crostini (sourdough with roasted red pepper and a rich red onion compote). I ordered the house specialty, a Killybegs crab and prawn linguine with chilli and flat leaf parsley tossed in a white wine cream sauce. Decadent and delicious. I ate every bite. Josh had Steak on a Stone, a 100% Irish prime fillet steak (8 ounces) served on a hot stone with a trio of sauces (gravy, tomato relish, and compound butter), homemade chips, onion rings, and roasted vegetables. The steak came out on a piping hot stone which allowed him to choose how well done the steak was cooked. It was so fun and unlike anything we’ve ordered before.        

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With such an amazing dinner, we definitely couldn’t pass up dessert. Josh had the sticky toffee pudding (so good) and I had the house specialty (layers of homemade honeycomb, toffee sauce, banana, meringue, and vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream). Honeycomb is one of my new favorite things- it’s crunchy, but melts in your mouth instantly and has a great honey flavor. I just love it!  

After our lovely dinner, we very much needed to do laundry. We found an address for a launderette and drove around to find it. We couldn’t find it anywhere and ended up in the parking lot at the local high school football field. We had almost given up on our drive back to the lodge when Josh spotted a stand alone laundry station next to the gas station! It had two washers and one dryer. We threw our laundry in the washer and sat in our car to wait for it to finish. Unfortunately, someone had laundry in the dryer so we had to sit around for almost an hour for theirs to finish and be picked up. After a few trips back and forth between the launderette and the lodge, we finally got our laundry dry (well, as dry as it was going to get). Thankfully, we had that awesome towel warmer in the bathroom to hang our socks up on to fully dry.  

We ended the night watching some TV and writing down notes about our travels. And it was so quiet, we had the best night of sleep!

Almost forgot to post some more yummy candy bars we tried!

Tip of the day: Find joy in the journey, no matter how small- like majestic rams on the mountainside, towel warmers, and the yummiest food. Also, don’t trust the Connemara National Park website to give you park closure information.

ireland is a dream

November 12- Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, & Galway

Originally, we had planned to go to the Cliffs of Moher on Saturday, but with the crappy weather we decided to hold off. And OMG I’m so glad we did! We woke up to beautiful, blue, sunny sky dotted with just a few fluffy white clouds.

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We ate a quick breakfast at The Central Hostel of cornflakes and toast (exciting, I know lol) and hit the road for the thirty minute drive to the Cliffs. We ended up getting there around 10 am, just about an hour after it opened. It was great, there were hardly any people around. I would definitely recommend getting there earlier- by the time we left around 11:30, it was jam packed with way too many people (and it was off season!). Side note: despite reading everywhere that it is free to go to the Cliffs, it is not free to park, so just be prepared to pay for that. It’s totally worth it. The Cliffs of Moher are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They’re huge, majestic, and breathtaking. You could hear the ocean hitting the cliffs (the best sound ever!) and the sheer size of the cliffs was indescribable. There’s a small section you could walk around that was included in the official park portion, but then you could climb over a fence (leaving the official park area) and wander around at your own leisure. Of course, we had to climb over the fence. Seriously, you could go right to the very edge if you wanted! We totally did not because it was terrifying, but there were a few crazy, adventurous (stupid) people who went and sat on the very edges. I loved walking around and seeing the cliffs from all different viewpoints.

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We stopped at O’Brien’s Tower and as recommended by the Frommer’s Guidebook, we paid the extra euros to go to the top. Don’t do it. Totally not worth it. The view wasn’t any better in my opinion. In fact, it might have been worse due to all the merlons at the top (I had to Google what those were called, you’ll totally know what I’m talking about when you look it up).

If we didn’t have so much more of Ireland to see, I would have happily spent many more hours wandering around and enjoying the Cliffs of Moher!

Best “wet floor” sign ever!

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Next, we headed to Burren National Park visitor center. Which, if I had properly read our guidebooks, I would have known was closed in the winter months. No worries, we just followed some very obscurely written instructions from our Dummies Guide to Ireland book to lead us to a hiking trail in Burren National Park. The park is very large and has seven marked trails offering some beautiful views of the landscape- from woodlands and lakes to mountains and limestone rock. We started out on the blue route (Mullaghmore Loop) which is a three hour hike through very uneven ground and lots of limestone rock. There is so much limestone rock, it’s literally everywhere. It was such a drastic change from all the lush green and ocean views everywhere else we had been.

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We didn’t actually walk the entire blue route because it ended up being more rocky and uneven than we wanted to walk around on. It’s very much worth a drive through- the Burren was so wild and otherworldly, like we were on a different planet almost.

After our short hike at Burren National Park, we drove about an hour to Galway where we stayed for the night. We stayed at the cutest place, Merrion Townhouse. It was very clean and adorable, especially the dining room area with the exposed brick wall, hardwood floors, and bright blue fireplace. There were fresh scones and croissants waiting in the kitchen, so we helped ourselves to a little snack after bringing our luggage in. Our room was quite tiny, but they provided towels and water bottles for us and there was a TV with Netflix. It’s the little things!

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We got to Galway early enough we even had time to explore! It was one of my favorite places of the trip…if we ever moved to Ireland, Galway would be where we lived for sure. When I booked the townhouse, I didn’t realize we were in the middle of walking distance to “the Prom” and the city centre. The Prom (aka promenade) is in Salthill, a little seaside area in Galway with lots of hotels, bars, and restaurants along it. We stopped at Lana Restaurant for lunch, a yummy little Thai place that does eat in, takeaway, or delivery. I had the pad Thai (flat rice noodles with chicken, prawns, bean sprouts, lime wedge, and crushed peanuts) and Josh had Lana’s special noodles (udon noodles with fresh chili, coriander, crispy shallot, chicken, prawns, and vegetables). Our meals came out in little Asian take out boxes (I say little, but there was about a pound of food in each one) which we poured into bowls at the table to eat with chopsticks. So yummy.

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When we finished eating, we made our way down along the Promenade along the ocean. It was wonderful and relaxing. We saw so many people out walking with friends or their puppies or kids, just enjoying the ocean view and fresh air. There was a beach where we saw someone flying a kite and a couple playing fetch with their puppies. There was also a huge area with soccer fields and other activities.

My favorite part of the walk was when I just happened to catch a glimpse of a rainbow and snap a picture. Not ten seconds later and it was gone!

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I also loved seeing all the buildings along the River Corrib with boats lined along the docks.

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We finally made it down to Galway’s city centre. It was bustling with people. There were so many restaurants, pubs, and shops.

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We stopped in for a drink (Orchard Thieves and Guinness) at The Quays, as had been suggested by the sweet trio we met at Bunratty Castle the evening before. I never became less amazed at how huge every pub was once inside. From the outside, they always seem so small, but when you go in they go on and on and up and down.

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After our drinks, we walked back to the townhouse to relax in our room and plan out our next few days of adventures. We headed back up to the Prom for pre-dinner drinks at O’Connor’s Famous Pub. Yes, that’s the pub where Ed Sheeran filmed his music video for “Galway Girl”! Total fangirl moment for me lol. For dinner, we went across the street to Oslo Bar which is a microbrewery/gastropub. I had the Gannet fish and chips (fresh fish from Gannet Fishmongers in a Full Sail beer batter, chunky chips, crushed peas, and tartare sauce). Josh had the steak burger (100% Irish beef burger with onion, tomato, lettuce, and burger sauce on a Brioche bun and chunky chips). I enjoyed my fish and chips, but Josh thought the burger was too thin and overcooked. He did, however, enjoy his two pints of Full Sail IPA and the chips.  

We just had to go back to O’Connor’s after dinner for another drink. I’m super glad we did because we got a seat (two of the last available) just in time for some live music. I really loved O’Connor’s. It was such a great pub, really cozy, full of people with very eclectic decorations and stuff hanging everywhere on the ceilings and walls.     

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Tip of the day: Go to the Cliffs of Moher as soon as they open. And go to Burren National Park. And walk the Promenade in Galway. Basically, just recreate our day.

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bring on 2018!

Am I the only one in shock that 2017 is over and it’s a few days into 2018 already?! I absolutely love the holiday season leading from Thanksgiving through Christmas to New Years. There’s just something about starting off fresh, full of wonder, and looking forward to all that can happen in a new year. With this new year, we’ve got a few possibilities and changes coming our way. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m going to be married to a college student! Lol, that’s right! After a lot of thought and time, Josh has decided to go back to school. Right now, we’re both chemists at a local pharmaceutical company here in town. It’s not a dream job for either of us, but it definitely pays the bills. Awhile ago, Josh received his certification in sports nutrition through ISSA. He was a coach part time at CF Ripcord for almost a year and even put together a nutrition class and challenge for the members there. All of that has lead him to pursue his passion in nutrition by getting his Masters in Dietetics. And so begin allllll the questions that go along with a career change. Probably mostly from me. I promise I’m not crazy. Thoughts such as “where will you go to school?”, “when will you start?”, “how much is it going to cost?”, “are there any prerequisites needed?”, “where am I going to work?!”. Yikes, the list goes on and on!

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Josh has done A LOT of research into going back to school. He has spent hours looking at all the programs (Masters, undergraduate, etc) offered for dietetics. He took Medical Terminology during the summer 2017 session at IUPUC. In the fall, he took Fundamentals of Nutrition and this spring he’ll finish up his prereqs with Medical Dietetics online. Once he’s finished with the prereqs, the hope is to begin a program this fall. There is currently only one school in Indiana that offers the coordinated Masters program he is interested in…Indiana State. Definitely not our number one pick, but if that’s where he gets accepted, then that is where we shall go. Ohio State University is currently our number one (very hopeful) pick. Should a Masters program not work out, there are a few backup options which would still lead Josh to a career in nutrition. No matter what, though, going back to school means a big move for us, physically, financially, and mentally. To say I am nervous is an understatement. I’ve never lived outside of Seymour except for the two years I was at IU-Bloomington for college. And that was only for 9 months each time and only a short 50 minute drive home. At the same time, this opportunity has me really excited. Although I’ve never lived outside of Seymour, most weekends we spend our time driving to Indy or Louisville for food and random fun activities. Living in Columbus, Ohio (or any of the other places) would offer so many more opportunities for amazing places to eat, sightsee, and activities to fill our weekends. Plus, the places we are looking at so far are within an easy driving distance to both our families.  

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Am I allowed to admit that I’m slightly jealous that my hubby has found something that he is so passionate about that he’s willing to quit his job, pack up and move to a different state, and start fresh? I feel slightly embarrassed even thinking it. It’s not that I’m not happy for him. I so am! It is so inspiring to me that he is so driven and passionate about pursuing his passion. It’s just that now I want to find something that I love so much that I’m willing to do all those things too! How do you even begin to find that? Can you find it or do you just happen upon it randomly? Maybe, hopefully, one day I’ll learn the answer to these questions. And in the meantime, I’m looking forward to being the most supportive wife I can be and helping him achieve everything he’s dreamed of!

 

merry feast

 

November 11- Minard Castle, Inch Beach, Slea Head Drive, & Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Saturday morning, we had mine and Josh’s most favorite breakfast of the whole trip. After we got ready, we went downstairs to the dining room where we found juice, milk, and a few cereals laid out for us. Myra came in shortly after to take a coffee order and asked if we were ready for breakfast. Of course we were! It was so wonderful, you could hear the bacon and sausage sizzling in the pans and her putting breakfast together for us. When she brought our plates out, it was a lovely sight indeed! Our full Irish breakfast at Castlemaine included bacon, sausage, white and black pudding, roasted tomatoes, a fried egg, mushrooms, and soda bread or toast with marmalade and butter. Simply delicious!

Trying out the black pudding…it was actually quite tasty!

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With full bellies and well wishes from Myra, we set off on our adventures for the day. One of my best friends has a friend who lives in Ireland and it was suggested we stop to see Inch Strand and Minard Castle. As those happened to be on the way to Slea Head, we did both. Inch Strand (aka beach) was very pretty, but also so windy and cold, so we weren’t able to enjoy it for very long. I would definitely like to visit again when it’s warmer.

Minard Castle was neat because it was right on a beach, but we weren’t able to get a great look at it because it was on private property. It was still so fun to me to just happen upon a castle in the middle of the nowhere.

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On our way to Slea Head, we drove through Dingle which was a cute little fishing town. Dingle is also home to Fungie the dolphin and you can take boat tours to see him swimming nearby. We opted not to do this with it being November, but I think it would be great fun during warmer months.

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Leaving Dingle started us on the Slea Head Drive which is part of the Wild Atlantic Way. It was a gorgeous drive. With the more narrow roads, we opted to not drive all of the Slea Head Drive to save us some time. Instead of driving the entire circular route from Dingle and back, we stopped at Slea Head, drove up to Dunquin, then headed back to Dingle. Slea Head was wild and gorgeous. It was also pretty foggy, so we couldn’t see too much, but still amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing views and it was so neat to have green farmland dotted with sheep and cattle on one side of the road and cliffs and an ocean view on the other.

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One of my favorite road signs.

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I think we saved about an hour and a half to two hours by not driving all of the Slea Head Drive, so we had time instead to drive the two and a half hours to visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. I had read about a medieval feast offered at Bunratty Castle, so as soon as we got there we had to ask if there were spaces still available for dinner that night. There were! We bought our tickets for the castle and folk park and for the medieval feast (the feast was really expensive, but really worth it). On our self-guided castle tour, we were able to see a dungeon (!), the captain’s quarters, the great hall, the earl’s kitchen and pantry, the robing room and priests room, as well as the private and guest quarters. Everything was furnished as if back in medieval times and it was really neat. We even got to go up on the roof of the castle!

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After the castle, we went to the folk park to look around until dinner. The folk park included rural farmhouses, Bunratty House and its formal gardens, as well as an entire village street set up with shops. Several of the shops as well as the Bunratty House were closed which was really disappointing. I’m not sure if it was because of the miserable weather (drizzle and wind the whole time) or if it was just because it was a slower time of the year for them. Despite several places being closed, the folk park was so large and there was still so much to see.

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When we finished walking around the folk park, we were cold and wet and getting hungry. We still had a while before dinner, so we stopped in at the cafe inside the gift shop for a chocolate chip cookie (as big as my face!), a warm hot chocolate, and a coffee.

The medieval feast was spectacular. It was such a fun experience and like nothing I’ve ever done before. Seriously, how could you not love an interactive dinner inside a castle?! When we entered the castle, we were sent to the great hall. We were greeted by period actors dressed in beautiful outfits and offered a glass of mead (honey wine). We sat on benches and waited for all the guests to arrive, enjoying our mead and chatting with others. Once everyone arrived, the actors performed a welcome song complete with a harpist and explained a bit of the castle’s history. They even chose a random man and woman to be the Earl and Lady for the evening.

Next, we headed down to the main guard where the banquet was held. Everyone was seated on benches along long wooden tables and the food was served family style. On every table, there was red and white wine, as well as water in pitchers for us to drink. We had the most wonderful dinner company- a woman,  her boyfriend, and her mother (I think). They were so sweet, asking us about our trip and giving us some great suggestions for things to see and do on the remainder of our trip. The elderly woman was fantastic- the whole time she took care of Josh, she kept putting bread or more potatoes on his plate the whole night, making sure he was well fed.  

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We had a delicious four course meal (spiced parsnip soup-very light and yummy, spare ribs with honey and whiskey sauce- yes please!, chicken breast with potatoes, parsnips, and carrots- very good, and “lover’s delight” or fruit mousse- light, fluffy, and the perfect dessert after such a filling meal) in which we had only a knife to use for our silverware. During the feast, one guest was “trifling with the ladies of the house” and had to be put in the dungeon! It was great fun! To get out of the dungeon, the Earl of the evening declared Greg (the naughty guest) must sing a song in front of everyone. I could not stop laughing, it was so fun.

After dinner, the performers put on a wonderful performance of madrigal singing and harp playing. My favorite song was performed in Gaelic, so I have no idea what the words actually were, but we were told it was all about seaweed.

After the performance, we headed downstairs for coffee and tea and were escorted out by a man playing bagpipes. It was perfect.

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The Central Hostel was were we ended up staying for the night, about an hour drive from Bunratty Castle. It had dark, creepy hallways. The rooms weren’t dirty, but they weren’t clean either and the bathroom was across the hall from our beds. There was loud techno music playing until very early morning and the people in the room next to us were obnoxious. While it was really cheap to stay there, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Tip of the day: Attend a medieval feast, no matter the cost! It’s an experience you won’t soon forget!

the ring of kerry

November 10- Ring of Kerry

We woke up Friday morning to a cloudy sky and lots of drizzle. We wanted to get an early start on the Ring of Kerry, so we skipped breakfast and hit the road. Everything I read online and in my handy travel guidebooks recommended driving in a counterclockwise direction for the best views. I’m not entirely sure if it really mattered, but driving clockwise would have meant having tour buses pass me, so I opted not to chance it! On our route, we drove through Killorglin, Kells, Portmagee, and a few other little towns. All small and quaint and very cute. Since we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, we pulled off at a beautiful viewing spot to snack on our cheddar cheese, tomato relish, and fresh soda bread.

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On our drive, we even almost saw a shepherd bring his sheep across the road, but he waited for us to pass instead. I was pretty bummed, how cool would it have been to have a herd of sheep cross the road in front of us?! When we saw a sign for the Cliffs of Kerry, we pulled over and parked in the little visitor center area. We were both kind of annoyed that we had to pay €4 each to park and walk up the hill to see the cliffs, but it was a view we didn’t want to miss out on. There was an area to the left and to the right- I asked the attendant which side was better, he said the left side. So, we decided to do both lol just to make sure. From the top, we could see Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. I had so very much wanted to take a ferry out to Skellig Michael because it’s famous for being home to lots of puffins during the summer months. As you can guess, we weren’t there in summer so there weren’t any puffins to see. And starting in November, there are no ferries that travel out to Skellig Michael because the water is usually too rough and choppy for it to be safe. Guess we’ll just have to make another trip during the summer months! The views were just incredible. I absolutely love the sight and sounds of ocean waves crashing up on the cliff side and this did not disappoint. Both the left and right side views were amazing, but the right side was a little better because you could see Skellig Michael a little better (not much, it was quite cloudy, remember). We spent several minutes just enjoying the view and snapping pictures. Definitely worth a stop if you’re driving the Ring of Kerry.

We hopped back in the car and headed on our way…on some crazy small roads. As we left the parking lot, I turned on to a road that was literally as wide as one car. I laughed to Josh that we must have turned onto a one way road. Almost immediately, to my great dismay, a van started coming down the hill towards us. Alright, so it was not a one way road. I kind of started to panic because I didn’t know how we were going to get past each other when I noticed little pull off areas on the sides of the road, just big enough for the passenger side wheels to fit over into. Those little pull off areas became my great friends over the trip! I slowed down, pulled off into the little area, and let the van pass- I’m sure he knew we were tourists as only other tourists seemed to slow down or stop when passing another vehicle while locals (who were obviously very comfortable with these tiny narrow roads) whizzed right on by.

As we continued on our way, we drove through a few more  little towns such as Waterville, Ballybrack, Derrynane, and Caherdaniel. We finally stopped in Sneem for lunch at The Blue Bull. Sneem had lots of fun, colorful buildings and a pretty view of the river running through it.

At The Blue Bull, we found a lovely seat next to the fireplace and ordered some food and drinks. I had a delicious chicken, cheddar, and pesto mayo on ciabatta sandwich, while Josh enjoyed the shepherd’s pie special of the day.

From Sneem, we continued on to Moll’s Gap where we happened upon a ram just standing in the middle of the road! Finally! As we passed him, he just stood there in a stately manner, taking it all in. I named him Dunloe (we were on our way to the Gap of Dunloe) and he’s my honorary pet now.

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By the way, I came to wonder quite often how the shepherds keep track of their sheep on the mountain and cliffsides…there are just so many sheep and so much land, it seems near impossible for someone to keep good track of them. I guess I’ll never know…

We drove a short distance into Killarney National Park for Ladies View which is supposed to be a scenic panoramic view of the Ring of Kerry. Unfortunately, it was very foggy and drizzling, so we didn’t get a great view at all. I took a picture of the road sign nearby, just to make sure I remembered what it was that I had even took a picture of! I really shouldn’t complain though, our drive around the Ring of Kerry was only one of maybe three days with bad weather on our entire twelve day trip!

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From Ladies View, we backtracked a little to go through the Gap of Dunloe. What a drive that was! And by that I mean terrifying. It was suggested in our guidebook that most people enjoy seeing the Gap by renting bicycles and riding through because the roads are so narrow. With the weather being yucky and it being November, we braved the drive. There wasn’t much traffic, thankfully, but there was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. The view of the Gap was well worth the nerve wracking drive. Everything is just so beautiful in Ireland.

Plus, there were a ton of sheep outside the fences along the edge of the road which just tickled me to death. Judge me, I was definitely that person that stopped on the side of the road to take a selfie with the sheep.

We made it out of the Gap safe and sound, despite Josh telling me afterwards when I thanked him for believing in my ability to drive through it that he was in fact quite terrified we were going to lose a mirror the entire time!

We finished up our drive of the Ring with one last stop at Ross Castle for a few pictures.

Our final destination for the night was Castlemaine House Bed and Breakfast. It was actually almost as cheap as some of the hostels we had stayed at (and cheaper than the hotel in Kilkenny) and it ended up being one of our favorite places to stay over the trip. Myra was our hostess, very kind and welcoming. The B&B has been in her husband’s family for four generations and you could tell they were very proud of their place. I loved seeing family pictures from all the generations throughout the living room and dining area. We had a private room for the night with an en suite bathroom and everything was very clean and tidy.

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We were getting hungry, so Myra suggested we try Knightly’s Bar for dinner. We walked straight over there because they stopped serving food after 6 pm (I think because it’s a very quiet time for tourists and travelers during the winter months). Josh ordered a Guinness and I was super happy to find they had Orchard Thieves on draft. For dinner, I had the chicken and mushroom vol-au-vent with salad and chips. Josh had bangers and mash. Both were really very tasty and enjoyed in the cozy little pub with a fire in the corner.  

We settled in for the night pretty early to relax and catch up on some blogging/journaling- that long day of driving really wore me out!

Tip of the day: Even the most nerve wracking, narrow road is worth driving for the gorgeous views found all around Ireland.

 

beannaithe

November 9- Rock of Cashel & Jameson Distillery Midleton 

This whole trip we honestly slept in more than we ever do at home, so it was a “late” start for us getting to breakfast. Thursday morning, we ate down in the Kilford Arms Hotel restaurant. I had the continental breakfast- cheese, fruit tray, yogurt with granola, and soda bread with butter. Josh had the full Irish breakfast with coffee. A full Irish breakfast typically has bacon, white and black pudding, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, and bread with butter and jam. At least that’s what most every full Irish breakfast we had included. I thought we ate a lot of food back home when going out for breakfast, but let me tell you, even this was a lot of food for me! And you all know how much I love to eat!

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As we were leaving Kilkenny, it was sprinkling some rain, but thankfully it cleared up pretty quickly and we had beautiful, sunny weather the rest of the day. It took us about an hour to reach our first stop of the day- the Rock of Cashel. We paid to do the guided one hour tour and I’m glad we did. There was so much history to learn about, both about religion and about all the structures on the property and daily life within! We saw Cormac’s Cathedral, the Gothic Cathedral, “the palace” where the archbishop lived, and the Round Tower. All these structures dated back to at least the 12th-13th century with some back into the 10th!

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Sheep pic!

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And my new kitty friend, Fergus!

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We reached our next stop of the day- Jameson Distillery Midleton– after about an hour and a half drive through the country. It should be noted that we avoided tolls so we wouldn’t have to pay any more than we already were which meant the driving took us a little bit longer with the smaller country roads. We bought our tickets for the distillery tour and since we had some time, we stopped in at The Malt House (the restaurant on site at the distillery) for a bite to eat. I had a delicious Ballycotton seafood chowder (a selection of seafood from the nearby Ballycotton Bay cooked in a creamy veloute sauce with small diced vegetables, served with housemade brown soda bread). Josh opted for the soup and sandwich special (toasted white bread filled with roast chicken, red onions, butter, Wicklow brie cheese, and thousand island dressing and a mug of cream of carrot, honey, and coriander soup).

I was super pumped to remember to celebrate World Adoption Day while in Midleton! Every year, I post a picture of a smiley face drawn on my hand and this one was extra special because, well, Ireland!

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The distillery tour was led by a younger man who was very funny, knowledgeable, and welcoming. No matter where we took a tour during our entire trip, I was always very impressed with how much the guides knew and how easily they could recite all the facts about wherever we were visiting.

At the end of the tour, we stopped off at the bar for a complimentary drink (Jameson whiskey, soda, or water). Before we got our drinks, we did a small whiskey tasting of an Irish, Scotch, and American whiskey. I don’t really care for whiskey, so I let Josh have mine. Josh choose to do the four whiskey tasting (for an added cost), so we took our drinks to a private room for the tasting. The four whiskeys included the Jameson Black Barrel, the Powers John’s Lane Release, the Redbreast 12 year old, and the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy (Barry Crockett was the previous head distiller at Jameson). These four whiskeys were featured in the tasting, as they’re all distilled on site at the Midleton distillery which we learned about during the tour.

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From the distillery, we drove about an hour down to Kinsale for dinner. I didn’t realize at the time that it was quite out of the way from our final stop of Killarney. Live and learn. Our dinner at Fishy Fishy was really tasty, so I’m glad we stopped even though I was pretty tired by the time we reached our hotel. We each had the deep fried haddock (tempura battered haddock with chips and tartare sauce) and brown soda bread with butter. The batter was really good on the fish and I especially liked the tartare sauce (they even served it in a seashell which I thought was fun).

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Like I said before, I was pretty tired by the time we reached Killaran House Hotel because it was an hour and a half drive from Fishy Fishy. And it was dark (I don’t think I mentioned previously that it gets dark here around 4:30 pm in November). And most all country roads. I was really happy when we finally made it. We hauled all our stuff in and settled into our room- the hotel was so nice and clean. We had a wardrobe, bedside tables, an en suite bathroom, and even a little vanity. After a wonderful shower, we soon fell asleep after our long day.  

Tip of the day: Avoiding toll roads adds time to your trip…plan accordingly so you don’t have to drive at night!

Kilkenny

November 8- Kilkenny

Josh found an adorable little cafe for breakfast Wednesday morning called Cafe La Coco. I enjoyed a “fancy” hot chocolate (it had a design on top!) and a brekkie sandwich (with bacon, sausage, and tomato relish) and crisps (aka potato chips to us Americans). Josh had a cappuccino (also fancy!) and blueberry and banana pancakes with maple syrup.

After breakfast, we walked the short distance to Kilkenny Castle. We arrived at the perfect time- we only had to wait about 10 minutes until the next guided tour was to begin. The hour long tour was really informative, especially about the family and all who had lived there in years past. We saw a bit of the medieval part still visible in the basement, beautiful hand painted wall paper, the large and stunning dining room, the vividly bright yellow walled library (before electricity, they used bright colors on the walls to reflect the natural light from the windows and help light up the room), as well as several gorgeous original Italian marble fireplaces and hand-carved wood staircases.  

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Perhaps my favorite part was the 150 foot long picture gallery hall with a large Carrara marble fireplace, gorgeous hand painted wood ceilings, and lots of family portraits lining the walls.

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I also really enjoyed the small cafe which used to be the kitchen. There was a great collection of copper pots and pans!

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Of course, we had to stop for a pic in front of the castle’s water fountain!

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On our way to the Smithwick’s Experience, we stopped off at Dunnes Store for an Aero chocolate bar to snack on. It tasted very much like a Hershey’s bar, but with an almost “bubbly” texture.

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The Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny was next up on our list of things to do. Our tour guide was so sweet and welcoming. A large portion of the tour was done through video with only a little done by the guide herself. Although the tour was full of great info, I would have preferred to have more given by the tour guide than the videos. At the end of the tour, we stopped off at the bar where you could choose from a pint of one of their three beers, a soda, or a water. As I don’t very much care for beer, I was a nice wifey and gave Josh my ticket, so he was able to try a half pint of the pale ale and a pint of the original (he preferred the original).

After Smithwick’s, we wandered around the streets of Kilkenny for a while, just taking in the atmosphere. Everything was so quaint and much more relaxed than back at home.

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For lunch, we stopped in at The Gourmet Store which had several options of paninis (hot or cold), coffee, teas, and baked goods. We stopped in during the school and work lunch rush, but had our order taken right away and found a spot at the front window counter. I had the French panini (turkey, French brie, and tomatoes) and Josh had the Kilkenny panini (ham, Brie, white pudding, and ketchup). Both sandwiches were warm, gooey, and very tasty.

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We were able to check into our hotel after lunch, so we strolled down to the Kilford Arms Hotel where we were staying. For the same price as our hostel the night before, we were able to get a room at this hotel. I was quite perplexed when we walked in and there were two twin beds and a full bed in our room. Lots of beds to jump on! Lol just kidding! I think we got what would normally be a “family” room. I also couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights until Josh found a spot on the wall where you had to insert your room key card. When you put your room card in, all the lights turned on!    

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After I got some work done on my blog post and Josh had a quick nap, we headed back out and spent quite a bit more time just walking around. We stopped in for a loaf of fresh soda bread from Tess’s Homestyle Bakery, perused several shops, and took pictures of St. Mary’s and St. Canice’s Cathedral, as well as the Black Abbey.

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We stopped in at CakeFace, a patisserie near St. Canice’s. I thoroughly enjoyed the Devilish Biscuit Cake (dark, rich, and sinful- it tasted like a really good crunchy chocolate chip cookie). Josh had a cup of the 3FE Momentum Blend and the Tarty Apple (light homegrown apple mousse with a caramel custard center on a buttery biscuit base). To me, the mousse tasted exactly like my grandma’s homemade applesauce which is heavenly. With the crust, it was more citrusy and reminiscent of key lime pie. Add in that caramel custard center and it was just amazing.

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We had passed by The Dylan Whiskey Bar a few times on our walks and Josh wanted to stop in to see what it was about. I ordered a Bulmer’s draft (guys, I’ve really tried to like Bulmer’s, but it’s just too dry for me…from now on, I’m sticking with Orchard Thieves only). Josh opted for the Irish Three whiskey tasting which included a taste of Connemara Single Peated Malt, Teeling Small Batch, and Irishman Founders Reserve. While we were enjoying our drinks, a very drunk Irishman with a very heavy accent came in and started asking the bartender and us over and over who was singing the song on the speakers. He was asked to leave us alone, but he continued on. He wasn’t really bothering us, but I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying at all. Eventually he cursed at the bartender and was asked to leave, I believe he even called her the anti-Christ as he was walking out. There really is no end to our adventures here! Anyways, back to Josh’s opinions of the whiskeys- Irishman: one note, it was ok. Teeling: really enjoyed the sweet woodiness. Connemara: too smoky, but still better than Irishman.     

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You shouldn’t be surprised to know that we went back to Matt the Miller’s for dinner. I seriously love this place. On this particular evening, there were two guys playing a guitar and banjo and singing traditional Irish music. The music and atmosphere were exactly what I imagined Ireland to be like. I was feeling good enough after the Bulmer’s at the whiskey bar, so I stuck to Diet Coke. Josh had a Guinness (he’s really fallen in love with this beer!). We shared a crispy Brie parcel (brie wrapped in a spring roll pastry served with tomato & chili jam dressed with a baby leaf salad with a port wine and star anise reduction) for an appetizer. For dinner, I was so in the mood for seafood chowder, so that’s exactly what I got. It was a homemade seafood chowder with seafood from Dunmore East in a creamy white wine sauce with fresh herbs served with homemade soda bread. It was everything I wanted and more. There were whole shrimp and huge pieces of fresh fish throughout the chowder. So creamy, so fresh, so good. Josh had the golden crumbed cod and chips (fresh Dunmore East cod coated in golden crumb served with Matt’s fries and homemade tartar sauce) which was so light (I promise this fried fish breading actually was very light!) and tasty.  

Just one more stop before it was back to the hotel to relax and go to bed- dessert! We had walked by a cute little ice cream shop, Murphy’s,  multiple times throughout the day and each time the girls working there waved and said hello and offered us a sample of the ice cream. So we had to go back, obviously. Both Josh and I had the sticky toffee pudding sundae which had carmelised brown bread ice cream (Josh had one scoop of sea salt and one of the brown bread) covered in a caramel sauce, brown bread crumbles, and whipped cream. The girl working was super sweet and had great suggestions for what to try. It was the perfect end to the day!

Tip of the day: Walk around and explore Kilkenny as much as possible- it’s lovely.