Top ‘o the morning to ya!
Ok, no one in Ireland really said that…maybe ever. I don’t know. But I also don’t know how to say hello in Irish, so I went with what I knew! As previously mentioned, Ireland was our final European destination, and it ranks right up there as a favorite too. This was the only place we went through a tour company for, but first we spent a night in Dublin.
Dublin is a nice little town. There’s not a ton to see or do, but it’s got a nice vibe. The city is small and easy to get around (due to its size, not because the street organization makes any sense whatsoever), the food is fabulous, and the people are so darn nice! In fact, that was our first impression of Ireland before we even left the airport. I think the contrast was made even more dramatic having just left Rome where people are kind of pushy and seem annoyed that you’re invading their space. The lady at the Dublin Airport Information Desk was bend-over-backward helpful and polite, and she just seemed glad to share her country with us. Anyway, just after checking into our hotel for the night, we were off for the Jameson Whiskey tour.
PS – I tried to get rid of Tony’s red eyes in this photo, but the all-black eyes that replaced them made him look really creepy.
On the tour they really emphasized the difference between Scottish whiskey (Scotch), American whiskey (Bourbon), and Jameson’s Irish whiskey. The process for whiskey making is the same, but the Scots use mostly malted barley, Bourbon uses mostly corn, and Jameson uses a little bit of both. Also, bourbon is typically distilled one time, while Jameson is triple distilled, which is supposed to make it smoother. As expected, the tour guide was telling us what makes Jameson superior to other types of whiskey. Tony found it particularly interesting though that Jameson is actually aged in old Bourbon barrels!
The next day we met with our tour group at Paddy’s Palace (a hostel). I was a little nervous because I’d actually taken this tour in college and had such a great time that I wanted Tony to go too, but then I started worrying that the whole group would be young college kids. It turned out that we had a very eclectic and interesting group though. Phew! Anyway, we loaded onto our Paddywagon and were off to see Ireland.
We stopped every couple hours, often in quaint little towns with a castle or something. This one is being converted into a hotel. How cool would it be to stay there?
Sometimes we just stopped on the side of the road for a few minutes to look at the beautiful scenery.
In between stops our tour guide shared stories about Irish history and folklore, jokes, and music. One of the most interesting stories was about the curse of the Kennedys. You see, the Kennedys were a well established family with a profitable farm in the south of Ireland. To celebrate their success and provide for their growing family, they decided to build a beautiful, and large, new home. The proposed location of their new home was a problem though, as they would be forced to demolish the fairy ring (home of little flying beasts who apparently have quite a temper!) on their property to build the house. The townspeople begged the Kennedys to choose a different location, but they refused, calling the townspeople silly and superstitious. They built their home and all seemed well. But then the patriarch of the family was visited by a fairy who scolded him for disturbing their sacred wooded circle and cursed the Kennedys and their next 5 generations. Not long after that the potato famine hit Ireland and the Kennedys lost everything. They decided to emigrate to The United States. Several family member died on the voyage, which started a long chain of both triumph and tragedy for the Kennedy family. Apparently, the current generation of Kennedys is the fifth one, so it will be interesting to watch them over the next 20 years. : )
We spent that evening in Galway, a lovely town on the western coast of the country, and experienced our favorite meal at Pie Maker! All the food in Ireland was fabulously flavorful, from the lamb stew to the seafood chowder (It was cold, so those dishes felt just right!) to the sausages, but these little pot pies were phenomenal. I had the Chorizo Mozzerella Pesto with Sausage, but Tony’s was the real winner with the Chicken Curry. In fact, it has inspired us to try making Chicken Curry Pot Pie here at home, so if you have a great recipe, please let me know!
The next day on our tour was the big day – The Cliffs of Moher. If you’ve seen The Princess Bride, then you know this place as “The Cliffs of Insanity.”
If you look closely, you Harry Potter fans might find this site familiar, though certainly less shrouded in foggy foreboding in this view, as it was the site where Dumbledore and Harry went searching for the horcrux in the Halfblood Prince movie.
The Cliffs are a part of Ireland’s National Park system, but before that they were just a place where farmers raised sheep for generations. Today there are still sheep grazing atop these breathtaking cliffs. We actually walked to the right from the park entrance, past the little barrier marking the official end of the park, and along this trail through someone’s field to take our photos.
The view was stunning.
We probably could have stayed and played all day!
Our last day on the tour included a visit to Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. Tony didn’t need to receive the “Gift of Eloquent Speech,” a polite way of saying “the ability to talk your way in or out of trouble,” (Some might say he already has it!; ) and the line was super long, so we explored the grounds instead.
Tony investigated some caves underneath the castle.
They have a Poison Garden around back with Harry Potter-esque plants, like mandrakes and nightshade, which I didn’t realize were real!
We discovered a beautiful manor house, some waterfalls, and lots of evidence of witchcraft and sorcery, including a witch’s kitchen and a rock that looks like a witch! Supposedly, if you walk up those stairs backwards and blindfolded three times you’ll be granted good luck or something. We didn’t give it go. Maybe that’s why we had a hard time with our flights on the way home?!
Despite missing out on the main attraction, we had a great time at Blarney Castle!
That afternoon, though, it was back to Dublin. We had an early flight out of the country the next morning. Farewell Ireland, we will see you again someday!