Well, I'm starting a blog. I've been meaning to do it for some time now, but am just getting around to it. It's an odd thing. Blogging means that you think your life is interesting enough that people will want to read about it. I don't know if this is true, but I figured I would give it a shot anyway. This is a blog about my travels and quest to live fearlessly. Welcome.

- Christina

Sunday 30 June 2013

Ireland: Land of a Thousand Welcomes (Part 1)

     Cead mile failte! In Irish this means "a thousand welcomes," and boy did we really feel them. Ireland was an amazing place with beautiful landscapes and the friendliest of  people. That's a pretty good summary of our time in Ireland. If you want you can stop here, but I think I'll expand a bit. That's the point of a blog, right? Here it goes...
     After a full day of traveling, literally 24 hours, David and I tiredly stepped off the plane at the Dublin airport. We picked up our tiny rental car and were ready to go. In Ireland they drive on the left side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right, and you shift with your left hand. This combined with the endless roundabouts and signs posted in kilometers left us extraordinarily confused and stressed. David was amazing though. He was able to get the hang of driving pretty quickly and with some help from out GPS system, we were able to make it to our hosts' house.
Driving on the left. He was a little freaked out at first.
     So, as I said, we were staying with "hosts." If you have not heard of Couchsurfing.org yet, check it out. It was AMAZING. Couchsurfing is a website aimed at bringing travelers together and creating a world-wide community. You make a profile similar to Facebook and you can request to stay with people in different cities. Sound scary? It's not. As my Mom always says, "the majority of people in the world are good." She's right. If agreed upon, hosts then welcome you into their home and let you stay there free of charge.  Free, awesome, huh? But that's not the point. Couchsurfing is about meeting new people, making friends, and experiencing culture. We surfed about half of the time we were in Ireland and it was one of the best parts of our whole trip. 
     DUBLIN: We arrived at our hosts' house and they welcomed us with open arms. We stayed with Roser, her boyfriend John, and their roommate Theo. Roser is from Spain, but moved to Ireland to learn English and fell in love with John. John and Theo are both Irish born and raised. They live in a flat in Dublin right beside Pheonix Park, which is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. Roser and John showed us around the park and taught us a lot about Irish history. We then went back to the flat where John made us sausages on the BBQ- because it was actually wonderful weather and they don't get to BBQ very often in Ireland with all the rain. John then showed us a map of Ireland and gave us lots of suggestions on where to go and what to avoid. His advice really helped us navigate Ireland.  
Our room in Roser & John's flat.

 At Phoenix Park with Roser.

 David and John throwing the frisbee. 
Me, Roser, and John.

     The next day we went and explored Dublin's city center. We took the hop-on, hop-off bus to see the city. We went to: National museum of Ireland, the Jamison Distillery, Trinity College, Dublin Castle, and The Guinness Storehouse. David loved the Guinness Storehouse tour. You get to learn a lot about Guinness and he even took a class to learn the perfect pour. 
 National Museum.
 Bus tour.
There was lots more in Dublin, but we had to head off to see the rest of Ireland! 

     KILKENNY: The next city on our trip was Kilkenny. Here we saw the Kilkenny Castle and the Dunmore Caves. The amount of castles in Ireland blew us away. Every city has a beautiful old castle, which is not something we are used to in the U.S. After exploring the city center we took a short drive to the Dunmore caves. We drove up to a very unsuspecting welcoming center. We were in the middle of farm-land, and it did not look like the kind of place to find huge caves. When we began the tour we were amazed. The caves, which were formed by glacial movement long ago, were huge and magnificent. 
 Kilkenny Castle.

 The Dunmore Caves welcome center.

 Inside the caves.

     After exploring the caves we headed back to Kilkenny in search for a place to stay that night. We weren't able to find any CouchSurfing (CS) hosts, so we searched for a hostel. We found a great little hostel in Kilkenny and settled down for the night. We were torn between going out, and staying in. Just then, our roommate Felix came in and introduced himself. Felix is a Swedish architecture student who was in town for a wedding. Felix went to the store and grabbed a 3-pack, yes they have those, and we became instant friends ;) We headed out to a pub for a pint and we really got along. We ended up going to two more pubs and a club before heading back to the hostel. We had a wonderful time meeting Felix and we were so happy that we decided to go out. 
 Beer sampler.
Felix making a crazy face.
     CORK: Our next destination was Cork! The city itself was pretty underwhelming. It was full of shops and malls, which is not really our thing. Fortunately, the morning before I had made friends with an Irish guy while making breakfast in our hostel. He told me about a wildlife preserve near Cork called Fota. We decided to check it out, and it was awesome. It is a huge open preserve full of animals. Some of them are behind fences, and others are left to roam free. We spent the entire beautiful day wandering around the enormous park admiring the animals. The last thing we did was watch the cheetahs get fed, don't worry, they're behind a fence! The staff put meat on zip lines that go around the enclosure. The 4 cheetahs have to catch their own food. This encourages wild instincts in them, that would normally be lost in captivity. It was fascinating to watch them run, hunt, and jump for their food. 
 Hanging out with lemurs.
 Momma and baby Kangaroo.
   Our next day in Cork we went to Blarney Castle; this was one of my favorite things we did in Ireland. Blarney Castle is famous for the Blarney Stone. It is said that who ever kisses the Blarney Stone will be endowed with the gift of eloquence (hopefully it worked!). We climbed the narrow staircase to the top, lied on our backs, turned our heads upside down, and kissed the stone! Now, who knows if we were actually granted the gift of eloquence, but we did have a fabulous time. Besides the stone, Blarney Castle rests on beautiful grounds with a poison garden, regular garden, woods, lake, stream, and caves. The grounds had so much to offer that we could have spent all day there, but alas, we had to move on and see the rest of Ireland! 
 Explanation of the Blarney Stone.
 Blarney Castle.
 Kiss kiss.

 Walking the Blarney Castle grounds.

 Caves under Blarney Castle.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! I love your overall blog title, very clever.

    I'm glad you guys were able to get a couch surfer in Dublin. I'm glad David knows about the perfect pour with a Guinness. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of bartenders in Sacramento who do know it.