Sunday, November 16, 2008

No, Nay, Never!

It’s hard to imagine that at this time just one week ago, I was hauling through the underground tubes of London, Stansted Airport bound, for my flight to Ireland. Ryan (as in air) got us to Cork safely and on time, and staying as true to my heritage as possible, I was in Cork a mere 15 minutes before settling into an Irish pub with a cider in hand. Kevin, a 30ish photographer of Irish scenery and landscapes (or so he said), took an early liking to this here Galway girl, so I just sat on my stool and listened as he recounted tales of his travels through the Emerald Isle. His slurred brogue was just the welcome I wanted. The pub night was brief, however, as an early morning was ahead! After running through the streets of Cork to find the 224 Blarney Bus, Kathleen and I made it to Blarney Castle and strolled the grounds of Rock Close before climbing the castle to the stone, which we subsequently kissed. Aren’t you all excited that I finally have the gift of gab, after all these years of silence? Now my blogs will my TWICE as long and I’ll be a REAL chatterbox. It’s okay, you can laugh. I am! For those of you who have never been to the castle but plan on visiting eventually, start working on your stair climbing now. The winding steps to the top of the castle are quite frightening and steep. I must admit that the little old lady behind me kept up just as well as the two twenty-somethings in front of her… and by two twenty-somethings, I mean a freaked out Kathleen and a giddy Kaitlyn.

After our morning in Blarney, which, by the way, was the only time on our trip that Mr. Sun showed us his stuff, we explored Cork and lunched with Kathleen’s Fairfield friend Greg. We then climbed Mount Everest -- a.k.a. the hill to our hostel -- to retrieve our luggage -- a.k.a. school-sized backpack filled with six days of clothing – and made way for BusErann. Five hours, five hundred sheep, five thousand drops of rain, and five minutes of a glorious bathroom break later, we stepped into the monsoon of Galway, Ireland. Hellooooooo heritage! A few wrong turns led us to a 45 minute wander around the city before finally landing in Ashley’s townhouse in Gort Na Coribe, the housing area for students at NUI Galway. Our first night in Galway was thankfully low key – we chowed down at a rodeo-themed restaurant (which is so fitting since she is my absolute fave of Bret Michaels’ groupies, shout-out to K. Rudy!) and then had some mixed berry Kopparbergs in the Quey’s Bar, which was once a church in a past life. All I wanted to do was listen to people talk! It was nice to be surrounded by a friendly culture once again. The English are pretty rude. Actually, very rude. Just my opinion…

We spent all of Friday on the Aran Islands. The cool thing to do there is rent bikes and explore Inishmor (that’s the name of the biggest of the three isles), but since the Aran rain was coming down in sheets, we hopped into a shuttle and had an Aran native show us the spots. You’ll be confused to know that on an island known for its knitwear, the Aran Islands have no sheep. Just beef cattle. As we drove through the windy roads to the most famous and popular restaurant on the isle, we made a few stops, and despite the rain, captured some awesome shots. After finally making it to the restaurant, we were charmed to find out they serve one type of soup. It was a delish and authentic veggie and potato broth! After eating, we walked in and out of some sweater shops, and out of no where, we ran into Courtney, our friend from Stonehill, who was also visiting the islands for the day as well. It was a great coincidence. She convinced us to climb to the fort at the top of the island, stressing that it’s an amazing view and worth the climb, despite the rain. Kathleen was not convinced, and opted to stay dry rather than climb to what I found was the most spectacular view I have ever encountered. It was a mile hike to the top, so I destroyed my Uggs. Fret not, though -- I have about six more pairs at home! (Thanks Santa!) Just check out these pictures! On non-windy days, walking to the edge and peaking over the cliff is the savvy thing to do, but since I could barely stand, I kept a safe distance and admired from afar before sprinting down the hill. In the fall and winter, there is only one ferry back to the mainland, and I did NOT plan on missing it!

We made it back to Galway in a timely fashion, and ate at The Skeff, an Irish pub popular among the students. My meal was divine and served as a nice precursor to the pub crawl that followed. Galway definitely knows its pubs! The evening was a blast, but unfortunately, theft touched us first hand. Kathleen’s camera was stolen, as was Allie’s cash and cards. The thief was kind enough to leave her wallet and ID, though. Worst of all, she had just made an appearance at the ATM before our crawl began. Kathleen and Allie both handled the theft much better than I would have!

The next morning, we beat the rain and made it to the Cliffs of Moher, among a few other
Irish landmarks. The Galway Tour Company is truly the best thing since sliced bread. Desmond, the 70-year-old tour guide, led us through the Irish country side, singing and dancing the whole way. (No Nay Never is my new favorite Irish anthem!) He was the CUTEST little old Irish man imaginable! Each time he spoke, he repeated his words, which only contributed to his charm. For example, “I live 10 minutes up the road. 10 minutes up the road is my house!” I would honestly move to Galway just to see Desmond on a daily basis. The Cliffs of Moher were absolutely spectacular. We even got to see a real rainbow arch its way over the cliff, post-monsoon. The stormy weather added to the beauty of the Cliffs; I stress you all go on holiday A.S.AP. and bathe in their beauty.

After the Cliffs, we hopped the last Dublin-bound train from Galway Station. After several days of travel, I am sorry to admit that the Four Courts Hostel bed trumped a Dublin pub. After all, I had already been to enough in Galway. I rested up for the day ahead, which began with a tour of the Guinness storehouse. I sipped my beer, but you know me. I don’t even mesh well with Bud Light! The tour was a lot of fun, regardless of my lacking affinity for lager (The wine in France, however… THAT is another story!). After Guinness, the skies opened again, but thankfully not before glimpsing Dublin from atop the factory in the Gravity bar. However, armed with my leopard umbrella, I sat atop the double-decker bus and rode through Dublin. Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the main shopping street whose name has escaped me were all awesome but quickly taken in sites, as before I knew it, I was tucked into another hostel bed on another island. I made my way back to London to stay with Allie and Ashley for a night. We island-swapped! I spend my Monday morning shopping in Covent Garden market before touring the Tower of London with the girls. The rain found us again, but it was still a great tour. I then showed them around Notting Hill (how Posh!) and took them to my favorite Thai pace on Queensway. Before jumping on the Tube to catch my coach back to Canterbury, I impulse bought some nifty Peter Pan booties. They’ll be featured in the next blog: Parisian Edition. They’re tres, tres chic, as the French would say. (I hope.)

Few comments before my Paris blog makes an appearance:
1. Paris is so romantic. I now get why the city is notorious for PDA.
2. I’m going to Scotland on Friday. I leave at 3 AM. To sleep or not to sleep?
3. Rose Street in Scotland has the highest concentration of pubs in all of the United Kingdom. ISN’T THAT AMAZING? ;-) I’ll let you know which one is best.

Cheers… or shall I say, “Au revoir!” (I was just in Paris for the weekend. I’m still thinking in a nasaly accent!)