Personal

Galway

If anyone has ever been a fan of Carlsberg beer, you have probably heard their slogan… “probably the best beer in the world.”  I saw a lot of Carlsberg when I was in Ireland… and by saw, I clearly mean drank.  One day when I was walking around Galway, I saw a sweatshirt in the window of a souvenir store that caught my eye.  It was the same font as the Carlsberg logo, and it said “Galway: Probably the best city in Ireland.”  After visiting most of the major cities in Ireland (I’ll admit, I missed Limerick)… I would say I definitely agree.  I loved Galway, and I’m excited to blog about it and share some of my Galway stories.  

So I’ll admit, I didn’t spend as long in Galway as originally planned.  If you read my Aran Islands post, you’ll know that I had gone to Galway for a night ahead of my stay there to drop off my bag.  Without going into too much detail, I could tell that it wasn’t going to be a great living situation for those 3 weeks that I was supposed to be there, and I had gone to the Aran Islands to clear my head and figure out a plan.  Of course, plans changed drastically there, but since Kevin was from outside Galway and still has a house there, I still did spend a bit of time there.  And with my friends Melissa and Marc visiting, we spent a couple nights in Galway as well.  It is, hands down, a great Irish city… in my opinion, the best :)

 

I spent my first week in Galway in Salthill, an outlier of the city that’s on the road out to Ros A Mhil, where you can get the ferry to the Aran Islands.  Salthill reminded me a lot of Atlantic City… or how Atlantic City will be in 50 years maybe.  On a much smaller scale, of course… but it is right on the shore and has old fashioned casinos that face out onto the water.  No boardwalk, but there is a long promenade on the water that stretches from Galway center all the way through Salthill.  Have you ever heard the song Galway Girl?  Or played it 60 times on repeat like my friends and I do on St. Paddy’s? ;-)  That’s the Salthill Prom the singer is talking about… and I’m happy to say I walked the whole thing quite a few times while I was there!  Salthill was really beautiful and it was nice to be on the water all the time.  We also walked the prom and then the main road all the way out to Silver Strand Beach, where we hiked up this gorgeous hill that just had tall grasses all around us and gave us a great panoramic of Galway on one side of the water and Doolin on the other.  Very peaceful.

 

When I was in Cork, a photographer friend I had made had put me in touch with a friend of his in Galway.  She was another photographer from the states… NY, actually…. But has been living outside of Galway for about 15 years.  We hit it off and she was nice enough to have me for a sleepover on her sheep farm.  Yes, before you ask- I WAS IN HEAVEN.  Sheep everywhere.  I was obsessed and didn’t want to leave… also, her husband and daughter were incredibly welcoming to me and it was nice to be around a tight-knit family when I was missing my own.  She was also gracious enough to organize a photographer night out for me on another night, and I had a blast.  We hit up a couple of bars in Galway and then made our way to a silent disco.  I loved seeing the name of the bar as we walked up… Roisin Dubh.   Aka Black Rose.  My favorite bar in Boston.  It all comes full circle, friends :)

 

Anyways, it was my first experience attending a silent disco and I had no idea what to expect, but I’ll say that it was absolutely hilarious.  Basically, for 5 euro you get a pair of headphones and a voucher for a free shot at the bar (which, of course, was terrible), and you have two deejays playing two different songs, with the music videos playing behind them on big screens.  The songs are usually much different tempo, so I guess the point is that you are singing and dancing like a fool to one song while your friends might be singing and dancing like a fool to another.  Or I don’t know if that’s the POINT, but it’s certainly what happens haha.  It’s not something I would do every weekend, but it’s a great memory I have of Galway.

 

Galway has a lot of great bars and restaurants, and many of them are located along the cobblestone streets of the Medieval Quarter.  It’s nice to walk around this part of town and listen to the different buskers performing on a nice day.  I actually stumbled across a group of buskers who were probably the best I heard the entire trip, called the Atlantic Pirates.  They were incredible and I included a picture of them below.

 

Kevin and I went to an amazing restaurant in Galway called The Malt House, and it might have been one of my best meals in Ireland.  The chocolate torte for dessert was pretty much to die for and I am gaining weight just thinking about it.  When my friends Melissa and Marc visited, we ate at a great Italian restaurant next to The Quays called Il Folletto, which I remember had an incredible selection of wine.  The Quays is a great bar and not to be missed while visiting Galway, if only for the ambiance inside.  The arches and stained glass and pews make you feel like you are drinking in a medieval church .  We also went to an amazing seafood restaurant outside of Galway called Morans on the Weir, on the recommendation of a friend who had just visited Ireland.  This place was perfection and I would definitely visit again.  The seafood was yummy and fresh, and the cottage is off the beaten path, overlooking the water.  We really enjoyed it there.

 

Tis Coilis and Neachtans were two other bars that I really enjoyed in Galway.  My friend Suzanna had just been to Galway a few months earlier to photograph a wedding, and she had become friends with bartenders in Tis Coilis who she directed me to stop in and say hi to.  I did, with Melissa, and they were the nicest guys you’d ever met.  Shane pointed out where Suzanna had signed a dollar and taped it to the bar (a tradition that just like in the states,  you’ll notice all over Ireland) and he told me how they had made everyone in the bar believe that Suzanna was a very famous world-wide celebrity photographer and that her signature would be worth a lot someday (a point I’m not disputing since she does kick ass lol).  I signed a dollar and taped it up right next to Suz’s.  It felt good to feel connected to home, even so far away.  Tis Coilis has great live music and a great atmosphere, and I definitely miss this pub and wish I could transport it to where I live now :)

 

Neachtans is a bright blue bar right in the middle of Quay Street that you would have to be blind to miss.  I went there a few times and really liked the old-pub feel of the place.  The first time I went was during the week and so it was quieter and we were able to get seats, but when I went back the 2nd time with Kevin, Marc and Melissa, it was very crowded and we had to stand uncomfortably.  So I would definitely recommend checking this place out, but it’s much better on a quieter night because there’s not a ton of space to move around when it’s crowded.

 

My friend’s cousin (who I have known for years since I used to work for her parents) has been studying in Galway for years, so Kevin and I met up with her and her boyfriend at The Salthouse one night .  This was sort of a hipster bar with a great beer menu.  We got seats by the front window and were chatting between the 4 of us when a guy came in and started hitting on me.  It was odd because we were clearly on a “double date”, and yet he didn’t seem to notice Kevin at all.  He was practically asking me out in front of him, telling me great places we could go in Galway together.  Finally I turned to Kevin and said “What do you think, that place sounds fun, should we go there?”  The guy looked shocked and asked “Are ye courting?”  Trying out my acquired Irish slang, I said “No!  We’re shifting.”  It got a laugh out of everyone and the guy finally moved on and left us alone with our pints.

 

Also not to be missed is a stop into Thomas Dillon’s on Quay Street.  Thomas Dillons is the original claddagh ring designer, and so of course I had to get a ring there.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget walking into the little shop with Kevin with me, who promptly clapped his hands together and asked the adorable old ladies behind the counter where we could find the engagement rings.  I turned ten shades of red while the little ladies behind the desk lit up with excitement, asking if we were really engaged.  Little did they know we had only been dating for a month.  But they were good craic and we had a blast chatting with them.  Thomas Dillons is a great place to buy a special piece of jewelry to commemorate your Ireland trip, and there’s even a tiny claddagh museum in the back of the shop where you can see some original designs and learn about the history of the claddagh.

 

The Galway City Museum will give you a rich history of the city and a place to escape the rain for the afternoon.  You can also visit the Galway Cathedral, which is right over the bridge of the River Corrib and very beautiful, although there was a service going on when I visited and so I couldn’t spend much time inside it.  If it’s not raining (ya know, that one day a year haha) Eyre Square is the place to be, relaxing on the grass with a picnic.  Or you could be daring and jump off the Blackrock diving board in Salthill into Galway Bay… the tide was never in enough for me to do it, or I would have, promise!  I regret not getting a good picture of this while I was in Galway, but quite honestly, I never got a really good weather day while I was there.  No good sunsets, no dramatic skies… sort of just gray all the time.  And WINDY!  I remember walking back to my place in Salthill the first week I was in Galway and literally leaning into the wind.  I mean, LEANING into it.  The wind was literally holding me up, and if it had suddenly stopped I would have fallen flat on my face.  But of course, that didn’t happen, and it was one of the craziest walks I have ever taken.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the house!

 

Here are some photos from my time in Galway.

 

 

 

These are all around Eyre Square...

 

 

 

 

This is the area known as Claddagh, which is on the way out of the city towards Salthill.  There's a little boat basin where you can feed the swans and lots of benches to sit out by the water...

 

 

 

 

Salthill and Salthill Prom...

 

 

Back in the city centre...

 

 

 

 

Inside Tis Coili...

 

 

 

Mel, Marc and I out to dinner in Galway...

 

 

Some more Galway musicians...

 

 

These are the buskers I was talking about, the Atlantic Pirates.  They are AMAZING.  Seriously, some of the best I heard in 3 months in Ireland.  Their videos on YouTube don't even do them justice, but here's one I picked because it was filmed in the same spot I saw them playing :)  Farewell to Carlingford...

 

 

 

 

 

The Galway Cathedral...

 

 

 

I haven't been posting any B&B photos, but our B&B in Galway is worth mentioning because I was obsessed.  Kevin didn't get what I was so smitten with, but it was so eclectic and modern that upon arriving, you could immediately tell that it was run by artists.  And I was right, and they were the cutest couple ever... young and hip and awesome... I just loved the two nights I got to stay at this place!

 

 

This little cottage and beach are out in Spiddal, which is also on the road on the way to the ferry to the Aran Islands...

 

 

 

Our lunch at Morans... HIGHLY RECOMMEND this restaurant if you are passing near Galway!  If I remember correctly it's about a half hour outside the city, in Kilcolgan...

 

 

This is another little town I passed through on the way to Galway called Adare.... I was OBSESSED with this town!  It was adorable and there seemed to be a lot of cute shops and restaurants.  I will admit I didn't get to investigate too much because as you can see, the skies were pretty bad and they literally opened up ferociously on me while I walked through town, but I managed to get a few pics of the cuteness...

 

 

 

So another thing I tried to do on this trip was retrace some of my dad and stepmoms footsteps, who came to Ireland on their honeymoon 20 years ago.  My stepmom had saved some brochures and receipts of places they had gone, and there were a couple of photos I re-enacted at the same places for fun... the photo of me at Doyle's in Dingle, for example, was the same photo/ stance as a picture my stepmom took of my dad 20 years ago.  So when I was plotting out my trip, I made sure to include some stops they made on my itinerary.  This was one of them; the Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara.  I stopped there on my way to Galway and not only was it a crap weather day (shocker!) but it was closed.  Wah wah.  But I walked around the outside of the castle, and of course took a selfie there to show my dad and stepmom :)

 

 

 

Downtown Kinvara...

 

 

So as I had mentioned, I was lucky enough to meet some awesome photographers, and one of them invited me out to her farm for an overnight.  On the way from Galway to where she lived we stopped to see her horse (who isn't pictured) and we roamed around the pasture a bit.  She caught some snaps of me and my new horse friends...

 

 

 

These were actually on Melissa's farm... and apparently I'm trying to high five a cow in one of these... casual...

 

 

 

I'll never forget, as we were walking into the barn, Melissa's 10-year-old daughter, Lilly, was walking with me and telling me about the farm.  I saw a dead baby lamb resting on a slab outside the barn and I almost lost it and said something like "Oh god, oh no..."  and Lilly saw what I was looking at.  She looked at me with more wisdom and grace than I had when I was 10 (and probably more than I have now) and said "Yes, it's very sad.  Sometimes it happens on a farm like this.  They don't always make it through the rough weather.  But unfortunately death is a part of life... sometimes the hardest part."  It was so sweet, so smart, and so eloquently put, I wanted to hug her.  She completely restored my faith in Irish children, who up until that point weren't winning any major brownie points with me lol.

 

I'll end with my favorite set, which would CLEARLY be me bottle feeding sheep.  Oh god, I die.  This was epic.

 

 

Next up, two of my favorite places in all of Ireland... Doolin and Westport!

 

 

 

Clifden and Cong

After the Aran Islands, we headed to Clifden for a couple days, which is in a part of Ireland called the Connemara.  Ireland is really incredible because every time you think you've seen everything it has to offer in terms of beauty and landscape, it gives you something else to marvel over.  The Connemara was beautiful, barren, rugged, coastal... Just a really great spot and I explored it through two towns, Clifden and Cong.  

Clifden was first and once we checked into our B&B, we headed up the Sky Road and took in some absolutely breathtaking views.  Seriously, if you're into scenic views and are too lazy to hike, the Sky Road is the way to go.  We had a beautiful weather day and made a stop at the Abbyglen Hotel, where we sat out on the front terrace and had drinks and just enjoyed the weather.  Abbyglen is a beautiful spot, a castle-turned-hotel set into the side of a mountain.  Gorgeous, swanky... And way out of my price range as a 3- month traveler :)

 

The first night in Clifden we had one of the best and hugest meals ever at O'Malley's, in the Atlantic Coast Hotel.  It doesn't look like it from the front, but the dining room has an absolutely incredible view at sunset. We were looking out over a river that was surrounded by hills covered in the yellow plant that's so popular in Ireland....and in the three months I spent there I never learned it's name lol.   Regardless, just a gorgeous view, and you'll see some of the yellow plant that I'm talking about below.  The portions were absolutely humongous and I had some of the best steak I've ever tasted at this place.  Both our meals were delicious and neither of us came even close to finishing them.  Definitely worth a visit if you're stopping in Clifden.

 

We walked around town a bit and found a pub that was going to have live music that night, and settled into a table by where the musicians would be setting up.  Imagine our surprise when in walked one of Kevin's friends from Inishmore :). I had heard him play my first night on the island, and there he was entertaining us two nights later in Clifden.  It was great though, because he was an amazing musician and such a nice guy... He even bought us a couple of rounds, and it was an awesome first night in Clifden.  It was also nice because our B&B was close enough to walk back to, so we didn't have to worry about cabs or anything.  As much as I tried to get the best B&B's I could right in town, I found that a lot of owners exaggerated how close their B&B was to the center of town, the pubs and the restaurants.  Just a little friendly tip J

 

The next day we headed to Connemara National Park and did a great hike.  There are several different trails there that you can take; for some crazy reason, we decided to do the most difficult trail, but the view really paid off.  We went up a mountain called Diamond Mountain... To one side of the summit, you could see ocean and islands and beaches, and to the other side you could see Kylemore Abbey and the lake it sits on, on the side of another mountain on the same ridge.  This was the 3rd national park I visited, and though I didn't originally have this goal, I decided at this point that I should definitely take in all six national parks while I was in Ireland (which I'm proud to say I did!)

 

We headed to Kylemore Abbey next, and it's another don't miss in this area.  The house is beautiful, the steeple down the road is beautiful, the gardens are immaculately kept... it's a big tourist destination but its so sprawled out that you don't feel too overwhelmed by other people.  It really is gorgeous there, and you could easily spend half a day just seeing the grounds and learning about its history.

 

The second night in Clifden we had another amazing dinner, at Marconi's, another amazing food find.  I hate to say it but I ordered lamb... yes, after all the times I photographed them and tried to hold them and swore that I would be taking one home as a pet... I ordered one for dinner.  I'm sorry!!!!  But as anyone ever had like a really good lamb shank??? Those little buggers are DELICIOUS!!!

 

When I had been planning this trip, I really tried to be smart about where I'd be staying, because I knew that's where the majority of my money would be spent.  I only stayed in hotels 3 times; two different stays at the same hotel in Dublin, and one stay at a Best Western in Killarney because it was just as cheap as any B&B in that area and it was right in the center of town.  In the big cities like Cork and Galway, I set up home stays, where I was staying with a family with whom I shared meals and a bathroom with.  It was a lot less privacy, but it worked out wonderfully for me in Cork... Not as good in Galway, and so I had amended my plans and not stayed there as long. Anyways, Clifden was one such place that two different B&B owners took me up on this at the same time, and so I stayed a total of four nights in Clifden, pretty much for free.  I think you can really see all of Clifden in two nights, tops.  And so by the fourth night I was pretty tapped out of things to do, and I literally wrote 33 postcards that night.  Not kidding.  But it was also totally relaxing, and one of my favorite Irish movies was on TV.  Waking Ned Devine, anyone? :)

 

Here are some from Clifden!

 

 

 

 

Sky Road views...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking in Connemara National Park...

 

 

This is what I meant by the split view from the top... amazing!!

 

 

 

 

Kylemore Abbey...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More of Clifden town...

 

 

 

I didn't stay here, but I loved the colors of this B&B!

 

 

 

The two B&B's I stayed at in Clifden...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheep in the golden hour... god I love them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After my four nights in Clifden, I took the bus back into Galway, and connected to another bus back out to Cong.  Cong is MUCH smaller and quieter than Clifden... A real blink-and-you-miss-it Irish village that you really shouldn't miss passing through :). Cong is adorable, and while in hindsight I definitely would only stay one night instead of two, I'm still glad I went there.  Cong's huge claim to fame is that the majority of a John Wayne movie called The Quiet Man filmed there, and so people still flock in droves on tour buses to see the spots where scenes from the movie were filmed.  There is a Quiet Man walking tour, which I skipped out on, but I will admit... Although I've never seen the movie, I did take in the Quiet Man museum.  It was only a couple euro and it took up about a half hour, so ya know... Money well spent I guess? :). From the museum, you can easily cross the road and go through Cong Abbey, down the path to the monks fishing cottage, and through the woods to Ashford Castle.  Cong Abbey is a nice peaceful place to visit, but Ashford Castle is the other main draw in Cong.  It's a castle that's been turned into a hotel, and it is stunning.  Another place that was way out of my price range, but it was nice to just go in and have tea... and chocolate mousse ;). My sweet tooth was out of control in Ireland, what can I say?

 

Both nights in Cong I went to the same bar, the Crows Nest, and had dinner and drinks.  The bartender was from Armagh, Northern Ireland, and he was the one I referenced as "Shrek" on my Facebook, because of his accent :). He was fine with it though... I think.  Anyways, it was a great bar... their live trad music was a bit lacking but I really liked the people and the atmosphere there...

 

By the second night I had made a group of friends in the pub.  When I was getting tired and it was time to go, I asked the bartender to call me a cab, and that's when I experienced another Ireland first- the bartender said "Oh no need, the owner gives everyone lifts home."  The owner of the bar, Dennis... nicest guy in the world... gave me a lift back to my B&B... and in my confusion and shock (and, lets face it- slight fear that I might end up murdered in an alleyway somewhere), I forgot to pay my bar tab.  Another thing about Ireland- people there are generally trusting.  So instead of taking your credit card like they do in America and holding it behind the bar, in Ireland they just have your tab going and you're supposed to pay it when you leave.  Anyways, I completely forgot... and the next day on my bus back to Galway I remembered and felt SO BAD... thank God, I ended up back in Cong a couple of weeks later with my friends who were visiting, Melissa and Marc...I went back to the Crows Nest and paid up, which they were completely shocked about... but I know I would have felt so guilty if I didn't make it back there to settle up!

 

Here are some favorites from Cong...

 

 

 

I cracked up when I was walking down a random street in Cong and saw a sign that said "Dying Man House"... I went over to investigate and of course it was a scene from the movie.  Still makes me smile...

 

 

 

 

 

I made friends with this horse and trap driver, Billy Gibbons... such a nice guy and I actually helped him out later that day as I was walking around... a family wanted to get on his horse and trap in the middle of an intersection, not his usual pick up point, and so he had me hold his horse while he helped them on.  He offered me a free lift around town but I didn't take it... he was so nice, just like everyone in this small village...

 

 

Cong Abbey...

 

 

 

 

The monk fishing cottage....

 

 

 

 

 

Ashford Castle...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently Billy's horse loves tea... I die.

 

 

Some random Cong shots...

 

 

 

 

Next up... Melissa and Marc's 5 year anniversary shoot in Cong! :)

 

The Aran Islands

After my trip to Dingle, I was supposed to stop in Doolin for two nights and then make my way from Doolin to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands.  However, anyone who saw the size of my bag before I left would know that traveling on the bus system there, with this bag, was pretty much impossible.  Not to mention that as good of a system as Bus Eirann is, it still has its flaws... and although Dingle to Doolin is only a 3 hour drive, on the bus, with all the stops and changes,  it was going to take 9 hours.  So I made the decision to get a ride to Tralee, rent a car, and drive to Galway to drop off my bag.  I was due to stay with a family in Galway for a couple of weeks, and so I got in touch with them and asked if I could come and stay for one night and leave the bag.  They agreed, and let me tell you, it was a huge weight off of me... literally... to drop this bag off and travel light for a week or two.  And the main port for ferries to the Aran Islands is in Galway anyways, so it worked out perfectly.  

I stayed in Galway Friday night, and on Saturday morning made my way on the bus out to Rossaveal, and took the ferry out to Inishmore.  I was absolutely exhausted from getting no sleep in a new place the night before, but it was a perfect weather day and I knew I couldn't waste it.  I checked into my B&B, The Seacrest, and was thrilled about my choice.  I mean, not that there is much choice on a tiny island of 800 people, but Seacrest was right off the pier and within walking distance to all the bars, the beach, the shops... it was a perfect spot and I loved the owner Geraldine immediately.  Her husband, Thomas, owns a horse and trap business on the island... more on him later!

 

So since you can't bring cars on this island (and I didn't have one anyways), there are bike hires greeting you when you get off the ferry.  I rented from Burke's, and since it was midday he cut me a deal: 15 euro instead of 20 euro for 2 days, because half the day was gone already.  Can't beat that, and I set off down the coast road of the island to get to Dun Aengus, a famous stone fort on the other side.  Also the place where they shot the proposal scene in Leap Year, but I digress...

 

For such a small island, there really is a lot to see, and all of it is stunning.  The coast road is just the perfect bike ride and you pass some picturesque spots, like the Seal Colony.  In the 3 times I ended up visiting it, I never saw seals (epic fail), but it was still gorgeous.  There's also a nice cozy beach along the way... but the beauty of Inishmore is really in the stonework.  The stone walls create a patchwork quilt of land like nothing you've ever seen, and of course there are cows and horses and some goats behind every wall.  It's amazing.

 

I got to Dun Aengus and climbed to the top, and while I was happy being there, my mind that day was pretty weighed down with worry.  As I said, I had gone to Galway the night before, and slept at the house I was supposed to spend two weeks at... and I didn't think it was going to work out at all.  The room I was renting ended up being right off the kitchen, and the owners of the house had two teenage sons.  Now, I'm going to say something that might get me in trouble, but here goes:  Irish teenagers are THE WORST.  Like, ever.  I won't go into all the horrible examples I have of this, but for the sake of this story, let me just say that this woman's teenage son kept me up until 4 am because he was slamming around the kitchen, most likely intoxicated.  So yeah, I was having second thoughts about staying with this family.  And I had no idea what to do, and on my way up Dun Aengus from the visitors center, I called my friend Karen in Cork to talk it out.  I decided I would figure out a way to not stay in Galway as long, and I would go back to Cork, where I had made some good friends.

 

Crazy how things can change so quickly, isn't it?  ;-)

 

After Dun Aengus, I headed back to my B&B, got ready, and headed to Joe Watty's for the night.  Like I mentioned in an earlier post, a lot of times music in bars in Ireland wouldn't start until 10, and they'd stop serving food at 9, so I'd often eat dinner at about 8:30 and stay on for the music.  If you went out too early in Ireland, like 6 or 7, there would be tumbleweeds blowing through the pub.  But on an island, especially a small one flooded with visitors since it was such a nice day, I knew things would be a bit different, and so I headed to Watty's at about 7:30.  There are a few bars on the island, but when I had gotten on the ferry in Rossaveal, they had a few people handing out brochures for places like the bike hires and the sweater market, and Watty's was the only restaurant to have a brochure, so I had decided to go there.  Good thing I did...

 

I never thought I would meet someone on such a small, tiny island.  I went there planning to completely unwind, unplug, be on my own, and figure out my next move in changing my itinerary around to go back to Cork.  I'm not going to tell you all the awesome details about the first time I saw Kevin, how he and I got to talking and how great he turned out to be for me.  That would just bore my friends to tears  (since I spent about a week gushing about him after we met).  What I will say is that no, he wasn't my tour guide lol... I think I posted a photo of us and said "best tour guide ever" at some point so people thought that that's how we had met.  Give me a break people, it was a hell of a lot more romantic than that... we met at a bar ;-)  No, in all seriousness, it WAS romantic, it was fun, and it was the best thing that happened to me on this trip.  We had an amazing two months of travel together and I'll always be grateful for everything he showed me.  I can't say what's going to happen in the future but I can say that I feel very lucky to have fallen in love with such a great person in such a beautiful place :)

 

Moving on... the next day we visited the Wormhole and the Black Fort.  Again, for such a small island, there is a lot of beautiful spots... but I wouldn't recommend going to the Wormhole or the Black Fort unless you have an islander showing you the way.  These places are way out and aren't marked at all... wait, scratch that... they're marked with random arrows painted on random rocks... and by random rocks I mean you're standing in a place with hundreds of thousands of rocks that you're walking on... and maybe 3 of them have arrows lol.  They don't exactly make it easy for you.  But both places are absolutely worth seeing, especially the Black Fort.  Here is with me with one such amazingly marked rock:

 

 

Inishmore is a place I ended up going twice, and we also threw in a night in Inisheer the second time around.  Inisheer is the smallest of the Aran Islands and I LOVED it... I almost liked it better than Inishmore.  ALMOST :)  Inishmaan is the third island and the smallest in terms of population, coming in at about 150 people.  Inisheer has about 300 and Inishmore has about 850.  All of the islands are part of the Gaeltacht and so you're likely to hear lots of Irish being spoken in all the pubs there.  Anyways, Inisheer had its own charms and it's somewhere I would definitely go back to for a relaxing weekend.  I didn't get to go to Inishmaan, but I probably wouldn't... most people said that because it's such a small population, they try to discourage tourism... I think we looked it up and could only find one B&B on the whole island.

 

I'll post some favorites from Inishmore first, and then a couple from Inisheer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dun Aengus...

 

 

 

 

The view from Dun Aengus doesn't suck....

 

 

 

 

The Black Fort...

 

 

 

The Wormhole... also where they had a portion of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series... you can see the pool they jumped into in the bottom left hand photo.  Here's a video I found on YouTube that shows some dives from that day... it's crazy because it literally looks like the person is diving into rock... you could not pay me enough to make that jump!

 

 

 

 

So this is Thomas, the husband of my B&B owner Geraldine.  The second time I visited Inishmore, he was nice enough to let me jump in on a ride he was giving to a couple from CT, so I could take a few pictures of him and his horse and trap around the island.  The couple on the ride were great, and they love Inishmore so much they are talking about moving there and starting a business.  They have been to Inishmore several times and even got engaged there.  They were great craic and I had a great time touring them and Thomas!

 

 

 

This was actually a semi- scary-turned-funny situation.  We came around a bend in the road and we saw a cow that didn't seem to be breathing.  There was another cow laying on top of it... (in hindsight, this could have been the problem haha)... but we couldn't tell if the cow was dead and the one laying on top was trying to protect it, we couldn't tell if the one on top was injured... it just didn't look good.  So Thomas pulled the horse and trap over and went over to investigate, and then he had to call the owner, who was another horse and trap driver on the island, and he was out in the field quickly and both were trying to get the dominant cow off the small injured one.  It turned into quite the scene and I snapped a few pictures.  All the cows turned out to be okay but they ended up having to separate the other two from the crazy dominant one.  There's one in every herd, I tell ya... this was a fun little glimpse into life on the island.  Thomas saves the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas told me he had a photo of his father at this very sign, so he asked if I would replicate it.  Gladly :)

 

 

Some of Thomas' other horses...

 

 

 

More island charm...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were taken on our night in Inisheer...

 

 

 

 

This guy was hanging out on the road as Kevin and I walked the island... he ended up following along with us for a good long while... loved him!

 

 

 

 

Rebel :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best walks I can ever remember taking.  This island was so beautiful and peaceful!

 

 

 

Up next... Clifden, Cong and the Connemara!

Dingle

My next stop after (my first trip to) Killarney was Dingle!  I was very, very excited to get to Dingle, because it was the first time I would really be staying directly on the water of the West Coast.  Killarney is a tiny bit inland and although I had done the Ring of Kerry and been to some great beaches (both on the Ring and on the east Coast), Dingle was going to be my first stay directly on the water.  I had also heard great things about it being a colorful, quaint fishing village.  And all the good things I had been told ended up being true.  I can definitely say that Dingle was one of my top 3 places in all of Ireland.  

I mentioned in a previous post that my friend Lisa has cousins in co. Kerry, and her cousin Cathal generously offered to bring me from Killarney to Dingle.  I think he knew how apprehensive I was after everything that happened that week in Killarney, so he suggested inviting some of his friends and having a night out.  He picked me up in Killarney and we stopped in Tralee first for a bite to eat and to collect his "lads", and we headed off to Dingle.  Cathal drove the scenic way, over the Connor Pass, which was absolutely amazing, and another terrifying drive because of how high you are.  But before the pass you go past miles and miles of pasture area that leads right down to the water, and the whole drive is just absolutely stunning.

 

When we got to Dingle, I checked into my B&B, met the guys at their hostel, and we hit the town.  We had a great time;  lots of inappropriate comments were made (lorries full of what, John?), shots were taken, and a bet or two was laid out.  Cathal and I actually bet on the name of a bar we were in... I was convinced it was called John Fox's, Cathal was convinced it was Foxy John's, and we bet each other a fried Cadbury creme egg that we were right.  We must have been a sight; leaving the bar, we both ran to the street to be able to see the sign.  And it was Cathal with the win :) Foxy John's was definitely one of my favorite experiences in Ireland.  A bar on one side and a hardware store on the other.  I was literally drinking at the hardware store counter, staring at WD-40.  Oh, and a 90 year old man with one tooth in his head made a pass at me.  Classic Ireland.

 

The next day the boys picked me up and drove me out onto Slea Head.  As much as everyone talks about the Ring of Kerry, and as beautiful as that is, Slea Head Drive really gives the Ring a run for its money.  I actually liked it BETTER than the Ring of Kerry.  It was absolutely spectacular, and it's probably recognizable.  This very famous photo of Ireland was taken on Slea Head Drive:

 

 

Unfortunately, I didn't get any shots even remotely as good as this one, but we had a blast.  The boys were very hung over and so there were a few stops made... mainly for more Guinness :)  One of the places we stopped was called Paidi O'Se's Pub, and is definitely worth a stop if you do Slea Head.  Paidi was a Kerry footballer-turned-bar owner who actually passed away very suddenly last year, and I learned while in Dingle that he was known as the King of Kerry.  The town actually shut down for his wake, which lasted a full seven days with people from all over the country flooding Dingle to pay their respects.  His pub is worth a visit just to have a pint and look at all the photos on the wall.  Some great portraits, some great GAA photos, photos of Paidi himself with celebrities like Tom Cruise and Pierce Brosnan.  It's right on the beginning of Slea Head and well worth the stop.  Dingle is "an gaeltacht" as well, which means people speak Irish there, so I enjoyed sitting in there while the boys played pool, listening to Paidi's wife and a few customers speak Irish to each other.  Most likely, they were talking about how awful and hungover we all looked, but what can ya do...

 

Anyways, the drive was gorgeous, and I, ever the inquisitive tourist, could not stop commenting about the beauty of the area and asking questions about different spots we saw.  Towards the end of the hours-long drive, I pointed to an island off the coast and asked what it was called.  Killian, who was in the back with me and I think beginning to tire of my endless questions, let out a loud sigh, and responded, deadpan:

 

"That's Mary's Island."

 

I don't think I've ever laughed harder.  Except for a few minutes later, when we passed a woman walking her dog, and he says:

 

"And that's Mary."

 

:)

 

I stayed for 3 nights right in Dingle town, and 3 nights just outside Dingle in Ventry, which is right on the Slea Head Drive.  It was nice because my first B&B was within walking distance to everything.  On my 3nd morning there, I met another girl, Jacqlyn, in the breakfast room who was also traveling alone, and we decided to go see Fungie the Dolphin together that morning.  We took the boat tour out and Fungie bobbed to the service a few times.  She was very quick about it and so I didn't get too many great shots, as you'll see from the pictures below... but more on her later :)

 

After we got back from visiting Fungie, Jackie and I both wanted to stay out on the water, and I told her about this brochure I had grabbed from the tourist office about deep sea fishing.  We called the number and within an hour we were on a boat with two other girls and our captain Pat, heading out of the Dingle Harbor.  Honestly, it worked out so well, and this was one of my favorite excursions of my trip.  The girls we met (hi Becky and Erica!) were awesome, and the four of us had a blast.  I'll admit it... I was a tiny bit jealous that EVERYONE caught a fish except for me (wah wah), but I was just happy to be out on the water enjoying the good weather.

 

The best part about deep sea fishing is that they prepare everything you catch, and there's a restaurant across the street from the harbor that will cook it up for you however you want.  Fresh fish anyone?  Um yeah, AWESOME!  Our captain Pat prepped the fish for us and Becky had a great time throwing the leftover parts to the awaiting seagulls.  We gave some fish to Pat, because we had way too much (that's right... some people even caught MULTIPLE FISH... again, wah wah) and we took the rest across the street to John Benny's.  Within twenty minutes, we had both fried and grilled fish on our plates and were basically stuffing our faces.  It was the freshest fish I've ever eaten, obviously... and it was so yummy!

 

That night the four of us headed out on the town for some beers and music at An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge), and we ended up meeting a couple there who was on their honeymoon.  They joined our table and the six of us had a great time.  The irony of the evening wasn't lost on me, though... I went to Ireland for nights like that... to meet new people and have a great time... and here it was happening... with a group of Americans :)  Regardless, we had a blast, but ended up calling it a night fairly early because Becky, Erica and I had signed up to do kayaking the next morning.  Coming back from fishing, we had seen a guy standing by a trailer full of kayaks, and so we had wandered over, asked out price and timing, and signed up for the following morning.  Now, that night as we were drinking, I started thinking more and more about it and realizing how terrified I was... I've been kayaking several times, but never on the ocean, and I have an insane fear of sharks.  Like, if I ever saw a fin in the water near me, I'd pretty much just have a heart attack and die.  So any time someone would bring up kayaking the next day, this is what would be racing through my mind.  I think I even dreamed about it.  And when I woke up the next morning it was raining, so I really really didn't want to go.  Neither did Becky or Erica, because of the weather, and we tried to get out of it at the last minute.  All I can say is THANK GOD we couldn't...

 

We got into the kayaks and did a few practice paddles around some boats in the harbor, and when we were ready our guide lead us out into the harbor.  Everyone was saying that they hoped we would see Fungie (except me, who was of course thinking about how sharks eat dolphins and so maybe Fungie would lead a shark our way... damn you Stephen Spielberg for turning me neurotic).  While we were out in the area that Fungie lives, Paul Breton came along... a sort of local legend who I had seen out there the day before (his picture is below, on his small red boat, which I took from the dolphin tour). Basically, Dingle people will tell you that if Paul is around, Fungie will be right there with him. They're best pals and while Paul is actually from England, he comes to Dingle every year for several weeks, spends every day out on the boat playing with the dolphin, and the dolphin always knows and recognizes him. So Paul came over to us, we chatted for awhile, and while we had seen Fungie a few times on our way out, once Paul was there, so was Fungie, the entire time. It was beautiful, every time he came up. We stayed for awhile and then our guide pushed us onwards to the caves, saying we could hang out more on our way back.

 

Now up until this point, the dolphin would come up constantly, and just be up for a few seconds cruising along and go under again.  Paul was even letting his boat drift and leaning over the back, and Fungie was bobbing up and down kissing him.  That by itself was adorable and amazing.  But on our way back, Paul said "Why don't I try to get her to do some REALLY cool stuff?  She seems like she's in a good mood today."  And he started skiffing his boat and calling to her, and that's when it happened.  Fungie started doing jumps and flipping in the air. The dolphin legitimately did three or four sets of like ten huge, high jumps in a row, one set being about five feet from my boat.  I can honestly say it was me of the most beautiful, amazing, and yes, indescribable moments of my life. A few of us, myself included, of course, had tears streaming down our faces.  It was, by far, one of the best moments of my trip.

 

Unfortunately, the good mood of the group didn't last very long, thanks to our completely unprofessional kayaking guide.  When we got back to the harbor, I was the last boat to pull up to the boat ramp, and I kind of came along the side of it cause everyone else's boats were taking up the ramp. I asked our guide to help me out and put my hand up for him to pull me up. He says, "Oh, you want to get out? Careful what you wish for!". And this is when our guide, the man we paid good money to take us on a fun adventure, purposely flipped my boat and I was all of a sudden underwater in oily, slimy harbor water.  Not that I can't take a joke, but I can tell you when you're suddenly and unexpectedly underwater and your head comes within inches of nailing the cement boat ramp, you don't feel safe or comfortable, and you wonder what the heck just happened. Not to mention that if I had brought my camera like a few of the other girls had, it would have been ruined and all my pictures from my trip would have been gone.  All the girls were pretty shocked by it and I think the experience really left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.  Paul, our guide, who had been making sexist remarks all day, did not even apologize to me, and in fact made more jokes as we walked up... "You're definitely going to need to wash that oil out of your hair" and "I hope you brought a towel". So yeah, that really sucked.  And it was sad because up until then the kayaking had been amazing.  My advice would be if you go to Dingle, do the kayaking, but don't do it with Irish Adventures.  There are a couple other companies that do it- pick another one :)

 

My last 3 days in Dingle were spent in Ventry, which is outside of Dingle on Slea Head, past Paidi O'Se's Pub that I mentioned.  I stayed at a place called Garvey's Farmhouse, which I mention because it was just one of the coolest experiences ever.  It is a working farm with lots of cattle, and Tom and Joan Garvey, the owners, were great to me.  Tom and his helper Max let me follow them around with my camera quite a bit, and since this was outside Dingle and I had already done the Dingle tourist stuff, it was very relaxing just to be at the farmhouse, take walks around the property and up Slea Head Drive, and just veg out for a few days.  Fun fact:  did you ever see the movie Once, about the Irish busker and the Czech piano player that fall in love in Ireland?  Well Glen Hansard, who plays the Irish busker in that movie and who leads an Irish band called the Frames, records his albums at this B&B.  They have a separate cottage on the property for rent, and he's recorded there a few times because of how peaceful it is.  I took a picture of the back of one of his CD's that Joan had at the house.  On the bottom it says "Recorded in Ventry, at Joan's house."  Love it :)

 

Connor Pass...

 

Dingle town...

 

 

 

Slea Head Drive...

 

 

 

Hungover boys do crazy things :)

 

 

 

Dunbeg Fort...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was walking on Slea Head Drive and I saw a farmer outside tending to his sheep.  I noticed how small the lambs were and I remembered someone telling me you have to hold them before they're two weeks old, otherwise you'll never catch them.  I stopped and asked the farmer how old his sheep were.  He pointed to one and said "Well that one is just a couple of hours old."  WHATTTTTT.  I sprung at the chance and asked "Do you mind if I hold it?"  He looked at me like I was nuts, but said "Sure, let me grab him for you."  And that is how I accomplished my dream of holding a baby lamb.  Oh and did you notice the farmer is wearing a New England Patriots hat?  It was fate :)

 

 

Fungie from the Fungie boat tour...

 

 

Paul!

 

 

 

 

 

Our Fungie tour boat captain...

 

 

Fishing!

 

 

 

 

 

Meal prep...

 

 

The Dingle Aquarium... worth a trip if it's a rainy day, but not something I would say is a "don't miss"... you could definitely miss it :)

 

 

The Dingle Harbor...

 

 

 

 

 

Garvey's Farmhouse...

 

 

 

 

 

Obsessed with this dog!!!

 

 

And these calves... too cute!

 

 

 

Tom and Max...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Dingle DON'T MISSES:

 

Murphy's Ice Cream:  Murphy's has a couple of locations in Ireland, but Dingle is their home base, and this became one of my favorite treats in Ireland quickly.  They are famous for their funky flavors that are a reflection of Ireland:  for example, Guinness and Bailey flavored ice creams. My favorite combination:  a scoop of Dingle Sea Salt and a scoop of Caramel Honeycomb= HEAVEN.  Word of advice:  avoid the Irish Brown Bread flavor.  It literally has hard pieces of Irish bread in it.  I nearly chipped my tooth on a seed :)

 

Brian de Staic Gallery:  I LOVE Brian de Staic jewelry.  I have had one of his necklaces for years, and on going to Ireland I decided that those were the souvenirs I wanted to get my sisters and my best friend.  He makes lots of different types of jewelry, all of which you can see in his gallery on the water in Dingle, but he's famous for his ogham necklaces.  They are beautiful and my sisters and I and my best friend now all have matching necklaces!  Granted, the names spelled out in the ogham are different, but still... they make a great gift and they're really unique.

 

Harrison's Family Restaurant:  Remember that fried Cadbury creme egg I was talking about earlier?  Yeah, this can be found at Harrison's, and I went there with the guys my first day in Dingle because Cathal's mom had told us they have a fried Mars bar there.  When we walked in and the first thing I saw was Fried Cadbury Creme Egg?  Forget it.  It was all over.  I went there DAILY to have one for the rest of the week.  Like, by the 4th day, the woman saw me walk in and literally called over her shoulder to the person on the fryer:  "One fried Cadbury egg!"  BEST THING YOU CAN FRY, EVER.  Served with ice cream and hot fudge.  Nom nom nom.  I'm 2 seconds away from looking up plane tickets just to go back there... so so so good.  And they did have fried Mars bars and other fried sweets, in case creme eggs aren't your thing (and if they aren't- HOW ARE WE FRIENDS?)  :)

 

The Mighty Session: Right next to the Small Bridge bar in the center of town, The Mighty Session is another great pub that has trad music every night of the week.  Oh, and one of the bartenders is a Yankees fan and was sporting a Derek Jeter jersey... clearly, it was the perfect bar for me.

 

Dingle Brewing Company: The Dingle Brewing Company is on the way into town, right as you come off the Connor Pass.  And they make one of my favorite Irish beers there- Tom Crean.  Cute little brewery, and worth the visit for a quick pint at their bar.  Bring cash though, as they don't take cards.

 

Boat Yard restaurant: This great little place is right across the street from the harbor, right next to the Dingle Aquarium.  The food is amazing... I had the Fisherman's Pie and it was one of my best meals in Ireland.  The panoramic windows in the front room let in great light, and the atmosphere is just nice there.  I ended up meeting an absolutely great mother and daughter team there (hi Karen and Kaycee!) and went out with them that night.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you're passing through Dingle.

 

Dunbeg Fort:  Dunbeg is out on Slea Head and while it's not the most amazing stone fort you'll see in Ireland or anything, it's a cool thing to stop at if you're on Slea Head anyways.  The view from the fort is amazing too- I popped in my ear buds and sat on the hill leading down to the fort for about an hour and just completely took in the cliffs and scenery around me.  Gorgeous.

 

Dingle MISSES:

 

Dick Mack's:  I had what was easily my worst bar experience EVER at Dick Mack's in Dingle.  I won't get into the big long story, but basically I walked in, it was one big group of local young'ins (19 or 20) facing each other in a big circle, that I had to walk through just to get to the bar, and as soon as I walked in, a tourist (gasp!  oh no!  not a tourist in Ireland!!!), the entire crowd stopped talking.  And the bartender turned off the music.  And you could literally hear a pin drop as I ordered my Heineken.  Yeah, that's right, I still ordered a drink, cause screw them... but it was painful and humiliating and I would never, ever return to this pub.

 

Irish Adventures:  Simply based on the story I described above regarding being flipped into the water by our tour guide, I would never recommend Irish Adventures.  BUT I would recommend kayaking in Dingle, especially if you're going in April because that's the month that Paul is around and maybe you'll get as lucky as I did to see Fungie do some tricks :)

 

Next up:  My trip to the Aran Islands... a place that changed my trip drastically ;-)