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.

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