19.06.2010 65 °F
Today was another great day – the fun is nonstop! Incidentally, so is the light … it is 10:15pm as I’m starting to write this, and still bright outside. It starts getting dark around 11 or 11:30pm, and starts getting light again around 4:30am! Part of this is because the days are longest right around now in mid-summer, but part is also because we are so far north. Anyway, it’s pretty strange!
Today, Kev and I went on a full-day excursion to the West Coast of Ireland, specifically to Limerick, Bunratty Castle, The Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, and Galway Bay. You can see the course we took here (taken from www.railtoursireland.com). Kev had researched the Cliffs and knew he wanted to see them while we were in Ireland, so we decided to take the full guided tour to several destinations to squeeze in a bit more for the distance. It was so worth it and we’re really glad we went! We took 176 pictures today, so I’m clearly not uploading them all on the blog’s photo gallery, and will be highlighting only some in the actual post, but rest assured that not a view went uncaptured!
We had to be at the train station at 6:40am, so it was an early morning. Here’s Kev on the train.
We took one train ride to Limerick Junction, then switched cars to get to Limerick City. We passed through County Kildare, Newbridge (a town that makes carpets and cutlery), the Curragh of Kildare (famous for racehorses and the home of the Irish Derby), Monasterevan, Portlaoise (home of the maximum security prison), Templemore, and Thurles (home of the Gaelic Athletic Association). The train was moving quickly, so pictures didn’t turn out great, but it was gorgeous – so green, lush, and beautiful, just like how I pictured the Irish countryside!
Once in Limerick, we got on a bus and got a guided bus tour of the city. Limerick was granted its charter in 1197AD, making it older than even London, and was also home to Frank McCourt, author of ‘Angela’s Ashes.'
We first got off the bus at Bunratty Castle. Honestly, we didn’t have any expectations for this because we didn’t know what it was, but we had a blast and learned a lot! The castle was originally built in 1425, and was actually used to protect and house various Irish rulers (mainly the McNamara and O’Brien families) and their troops. It was restored in the mid-20th century by a wealthy family who bought it from the government, and they also added in a “Folk Village” in the surrounding area – a re-created village with homes, shops, and agriculture/ livestock/ farming just as it would have been in the days of the castle!
Many of the artifacts in the castle date back to the 15th or 16th centuries. Here, Kev and I are standing in front of the actual fireplace used to heat the troops guarding the rulers on the upper floors; also, an unrestored, original tapestry from the 1500s, and me sitting on a bench dating back to 1520! During rare addresses to the troops, the King would sit in this throne-like chair, so of course we had my King sit there
After we finished touring the castle, we explored the folk village. We got to see the surgeon's office and home, the local pub, the printmaker's shop, the post office, and several other local businesses. We also got to see the insides of homes of various "classes" of people, and the differences were pretty astounding! Everything in the homes was original - including the china, which I may or may not have picked up for a picture's sake
We even found a sign for Lyons' tea - which is all over here!
Our last stop in the village was the Bunratty House, built in 1805, when the castle was getting too outdated for the family living there. Again, all authentic "stuff" inside! They had a really pretty garden, and ... a reindeer???
After Bunratty castle, we drove a bit further to Doolin, where we stopped at a local pub for lunch. It was just OK - the "dill" dressing on my salad looked a WHOLE lot like mayo, and for those of you that know me, you know that is a VERY bad thing, but you'll be proud to know I ate the whole thing anyway! Kev got chicken with mashed potatoes, squash (he thought it was sweet potatoes, don't tell!), and broccoli.
After lunch, we got in the bus and drove another couple of hours to Moher, our main stop for the day. The Cliffs of Moher are a completely natural, untouched phenomenon (now up for the "New 7 Wonders of Nature"), and are actually Ireland's most visited tourist attraction. The Cliffs are just that - cliffs that stretch for 8 km and rise STRAIGHT up from the Atlantic Ocean, then flatten off at 214 meters above sea level. It is impossible to describe, and even with our phenomenal camera (Rover!), you just can't see the true beauty, but here are a few shots. It was so peaceful and amazing, and we feel so fortunate to have gotten to see it!
We also did a little wedding ring photo shoot, because hey, we're newlyweds and we're excited
Once we left Moher, we drove to The Burren, which is a huge (several miles) stretch of limestone running right into the beach. Many people say it looks "lunar" - we thought it was just pretty amazing and strange and fascinating! Here are more pictures:
After that, we hopped on the trusty bus (seen at the bottom), and drove along the coast to Galway Bay. This has been rated one of the top 10 coastal drives in Europe, and it was very pretty, but somehow picture taking escaped us! We were tired (after a long day of ... sitting???), and pictures just don't seem to come out as pretty when taken through a moving bus window. It basically looked like the Irish countryside seen before, just sometimes bordering the water, with more of a rocky border rather than the beaches we see in the US. There were also tons of cows and sheep, some horses, and a smattering of llamas and random castles throughout the countryside! When we got to Galway, we headed back on an ~3 hour train ride to Dublin. I'd be lying if I said we didn't doze off a bit during the ride, but it looked a lot like the first one We also ate, did a few thank you notes, read, and chatted. It was an AMAZING day and we're really glad we got the opportunity to see so much of this beautiful country!!
Sorry for the tome-like blog posts of late, we've just had some incredible days! Tomorrow is going to be filled with some more relaxing, a little bit of sightseeing, and the Guinness brewery tour, probably followed by a new pub, so hopefully I'll have less to drone on about We love hearing from all of you - thanks SO much for the comments!
-Megan and Kevin