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Ireland

Live, Play, Travel

Back to Ireland: Killarney National Park

April 11, 2016
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I got back from Ireland with grand plans to update you all on our adventures. I was picturing lengthy, photo filled posts about the place we went, the things we saw, and the people we met. And then Maddie got sick and all of that was forgotten.

But our lives are settling down again and it’s time take you traveling!

Today we’re off to Killarney National Park!

Due to my husband’s work schedule (stupid work!) we were based out of Cork for most of our trip. I say that like it’s a bad thing but it’s definitely not. I love Cork. In fact, I love Cork so much that I think I could very easily live there. But by the time the week was over I was ready to see more of the country. We only had a few days to kill and I had a heinously early flight out of Cork airport on our last day in Ireland so we didn’t want to stray too far. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go far to get a taste of the country.

My husband found a beautiful place on AirBnB that was just on the outskirts of Killarney National Park. It was perfect. From our window we could see horses grazing in the field below and sheep hanging out across the little valley. The owner was friendly and provided tons of information on hiking (or “walking” as the Europeans call it) trails in the area. But as tempting as it was to just hang out in our AirBnB all weekend (seriously, it was lovely!) we spent most of our time out enjoying the countryside.

Our first stop upon arriving in Killarney was at Killarney National Park where we paid a visit to the Muckross House and went for a quick hike to the Torc waterfall. The trees were covered in moss and everything was green. It reminded me of the Pacific Northwest and was pretty much the opposite of what we see here in super arid Colorado. It was gorgeous.

My favorite part of Killarney may have been the “jaunting cars” which is apparently Irish for “horse and buggy”. They were everywhere zipping people to and from the various sites. We didn’t ride on one but I loved watching them go by! Also? Could anything sound more jolly than “jaunting car”?

The next morning we grabbed breakfast in town and then headed for the Ross Castle where we took a tour, which we really enjoyed. From there it was off on a driving tour of the Ring of Kerry, which we will save for another day … !

Our visit to Killarney was short but sweet. It gave us a taste for what that little corner of the world is like – and left us wanting so much more. The area is beautiful and, as with everywhere we visited in Ireland, the people were incredibly friendly. If there was one downside to Killarney, it was the food. While Ireland is not necessarily known for its culinary scene, we had some really good food in Cork. But the further we got from the city, the harder it was to find great food. That’s not to say that it’s not there – just that it was a lot harder to find. This is where talking with the locals can be a huge help! But yanno what? It doesn’t even matter. I’d eat lackluster food for the rest of my life if it meant spending time in beautiful Killarney.

 

Live, Play, Travel

So yeah, I kind of love Ireland

March 18, 2016
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The last time I wrote for this blog I was sitting in Heathrow airport, weary from a long day in a place I wasn’t loving and the massive effort it took to get to where I needed to be. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and ready to be anywhere but there.

The night’s last flight out of London got me to Cork just before midnight, which is way past my bedtime regardless of timezone. I gathered my luggage and stepped out into the cool, damp air. I hailed a cab and settled into the backseat. The taxi driver was old and Irish and chatty. Classical music played softly in the car and a light rain fell on the windshield. For the first time in two days I felt like I could breathe.

I fall in love with places easily and Ireland sucked me in quick. It wasn’t the culture or the history or the old stone buildings around every corner, although those certainly didn’t hurt. It wasn’t the food (which largely wasn’t amazing) or the whiskey (which definitely was!).

It was the people.

Our hotel was a good mile and a half or so from the center of Cork and because I’m cheap and like to walk, I hoofed it pretty much everywhere I needed to go. I spent my first morning getting the lay of the land – walking past old churches and up narrow sidewalks, checking out the bustling downtown, and strolling along the river. It was on one of these walks that I met John.

[This is John! I took this picture before I knew we were about to become BFFs.]

John was an older Irish gent who was out for a walk with his two little dogs. We first crossed paths as I headed down the trail that runs alongside the river and out of town. We struck up a conversation about the weather (the Irish love talking about the weather) and an hour later we were still walking and talking. He told me all about the city and the schools and the old abandoned asylum that sits up on the hillside. We talked about beer and dogs and politics. Our walk took forever because every time he wanted to make a point he’d stop walking, look at me, and gesture wildly with his hands.

I loved every minute of it.

This was a pattern that would repeat itself for the rest of the trip in every town I visited. The woman in the little craft store in Cobh. The lobstermen who were working on their traps in Kinsale. The owner of our AirBnB in Killarney. The cab drivers – Oh my god, the cab drivers! They were the chattiest of them all.

I learned early on that you don’t start a conversation with an Irish person unless you plan to be in that conversation for a very long time. I started a lot of conversations because as far as I’m concerned, hanging out with the locals is one of the very best reasons to go to Ireland.

The places we visited were a lot like the people – friendly and warm and welcoming. The pubs were a cozy kind of crowded and the drinks and conversation flowed. The landscape was soft and green and painfully pretty. Even the sheep (which were everywhere in the countryside) were extra fuzzy and adorable.

Ireland is nothing like the place where we live – but it felt like home from the moment I arrived.A week wasn’t nearly a long enough time in this place and we’re already scheming about how we can go back someday. I want to spend more time in Killarney and visit the Cliffs of Moher. I want to drive the Wild Atlantic Way and try like hell to not cross over onto the right side of the road. I want to spend more time drinking beer in pubs with the people that make this place so great. And I want to take my son – because I know he would love it there too.

Stay tuned for more posts and pictures about our trip to Ireland. I have a lot to tell you!