Our family of seven land in Shannon, Ireland on a cold night. The airport is small and completely deserted as if it were located in a ghost town.
This time, dad has to drive because there isn’t a metro system. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and people drive on the left side of the road here. The same is true in England as well. It is super late so we get on our way to the small golf-course resort we are staying at. It is extremely dark. We are in the middle of the country; so there aren’t many street lights or other cars. There are, however, lots and lots of narrow, curvy roads. Once we have arrived, we take our backpacks in and make a quick round through the house, checking it out.
It is a two-story townhome style apartment. There is a full kitchen, living space and bathroom downstairs. Right inside the front door, there is a flight of steep, creaky stairs leading to the upper level which has one hallway with two bedrooms on the same side and another bathroom at the end. Now that we have explored it all, we call dibs on beds. We fall asleep really quickly, utterly exhausted.
February 4th, 2:49 pm (8:49 am)
Today is super laid back. After all, we are in Ireland! It is wonderful. I wake up late, Mom and Kyle went to the grocery store in the nearest town while I was still asleep. Now that they are back and I am actually up, we all go exploring. In Bodyke, the town to the right of the golf course, we turn down a road that appears to be a walking trail. We had looked up some different trails online back at the condo so we kind of assume this must be one of them. It turns out to be a “do not enter” zone where trees are cut down for timber. The funny thing is that right before we turned down this road, dad had asked this redhead, Irish guy if it was the mile-long trial and he had confirmed it. First of all, in Ireland, they use the metric system, so distance is not measured in miles… as it turns out, this is not a trail at all. It is fun though, and Katy is enjoying splashing through puddles in the road from the rain yesterday.
We all pile back into the rental car parked on the side of the road and drive to another small town near Limerick, the town on the opposite side of the golf course. We find a place to park in an actual parking lot, (which Bodyke didn’t really have). We find a lake with a boating dock. The sun is now setting creating a breathtaking view, so we walk closer, to the edge of the water. We all begin to take pictures of the sun setting on the lake.
Katy goes and plays at the park up on the hill with my Dad will Kyle and Kaden skip rocks. Kara and I take Mom back up to the road that we came into town on. The street is full of shops and small restaurants and of course, famous Irish pubs. All of the shops are closed. In Ireland, at least in the country towns, shops and restaurants are already closed by 5 o’clock on Sunday evening. The one thing that is still open, is the pub, and it is PACKED! This town is the absolute cutest.
Tonight is the Super Bowl, so we decide to go back to the tiny little grocery store, which is smaller than the typical Dollar General, for game-time snacks. We go in and look around. We buy the essentials, Irish chips (they don’t have Doritos), Pepsi and Coca-Cola, sandwich fixings, and Nutella. Nutella is a big thing in Europe, too, and is really cheap in Ireland. Kara pays by just holding out her hand and letting the cashier take the correct amount. We had been paying with the credit cards mostly, but some places required Euros. We go back to the condo and stow away the food. We have about an hour before the game starts. It is taking forever to find a channel that will air it, so we all begin downloading apps that will stream it live. The Wi-Fi here is sub-par and at the rate the apps are downloading, they won’t be completely installed until after the game is over.
It is 11:20 pm here, 5:20 at home when we finally get the TV to work and see all the players lined up for the national anthem. The first commercial airs. It isn’t a legendary American Super Bowl commercial. WHAT!?!? No super bowl commercials? I’m out. It is late, I’m going to watch something on Netflix.
Also, in London, I realized that Netflix is different, too. Even in Ireland, it is different than London. The shows and movies aren’t the same. I am in the middle of watching a show, and it is not on Netflix here… I’m completely dumbfounded. Yeah, I am going to bed.
February 5th, 12:17 pm (6:17 am)
We have the car loaded. Today we are driving a little over an hour to see the famous Cliffs of Moher. Once we pull in, we get out and begin the walk up to the edge. At the top, we look out. I am awestruck. The sight is incredible. To the left, right, there is a straight drop off. Stretched out in front of us is the Irish Sea, going on what seems like forever. The cliffs are a dark mud color, partially covered in thick, tall, hay-like grass. There is a wall made of giant rocks forming a barrier between the visitors and the cliff. The rocks are about four feet tall and beyond them, there are roughly 20 feet of grassy land before the drop-off. I cannot stress enough how awesome this place is. Further up the steps, there is a small building that kind of looks like a castle, which used to be the visitors center. Now there is a great big, nice visitor’s center built into the side of the hill at the very bottom of it.
We head out again, toward Galway, an outdoor souvenir shopping center with cobblestone walkways and lights strung up as decoration, another must do in Ireland. On our way there, we stop in another small town that is bigger than the last couple of towns and visit the bookstore and tiny thrift store. At the thrift store, we purchase a necklace, two scarves, and a beanie. It is the cutest little shop EVER!
Once we arrive at Galway, we get out and walk the cobblestone sidewalks, no cars are permitted on them. We still have yet to go to a famous Irish Pub but there are multiple options. We go into the ice cream shop a little further down the street and ask the owner for a suggestion. She gives us her advice and we take her up on it. We aren’t super hungry, and the food is pretty expensive so Mom and Dad decide to order a few appetizers to split amongst us. One of the dishes is incredibly DELICIOUS!! I have no idea what it is but man is it good! They look like little-fried crab cakes but I am positive that there is no crab in them. They came with some sort of cranberry or raspberry sauce… oh, my goodness. So good.
Now that we have eaten, we go back to the tiny ice cream store for dessert… even though it is still freezing. We get to talking and it turns out that her brother actually lives in Amsterdam, our next stop on this trip! She has this pail on the counter titled “random facts” with pens and paper beside it for customers to write random facts on. How awesome is that?
February 6th 2:38 pm (8:38 am)
The drive to Bunratty Castle from the hotel wasn’t too bad. Now we are through the gate with our tickets, free to explore the castle and its grounds. It is very similar to the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth besides the 15th-century castle.
The castle is the first building we went inside. It is beautiful. The first room is a large room that looked like a cathedral. It has two big chairs by the far wall tucked under a table. There are four extremely narrow stairwells: one in each corner of the castle. One of the guides here tells us that back when Ireland was at war, opposing troops would ride their horses up the narrow winding stairwells when they raided the castle… I have no idea how they did that. All the rooms are staged for the time period but roped off to visitors. At the very top of the building, there is an open-air patio with walls on each side where guards would stand watch. There is an empty moat surrounding the Bunratty castle too. The moat has one drawbridge allowing passage. The rest of the property contains homes from different times and social standards. Some have been on the land since the castle was built but most have been brought in from different parts of Ireland. We spent a couple hours here, and I would definitely recommend it.
We all pile in the car and eat the sandwiches we packed for lunch in the car. We had met a couple in the gift shop and they had said they did the same thing when they traveled with their kids. We decide to drive into the city of Bunratty, just to see what it’s like. It is actually pretty busy. We end up parking on the side of the road but have to move when we realize there is no parking meter. Dad drops most of us off and we all walk to an Irish version of a shopping mall- it is much warmer in here! The mall is pretty small compared to The Parks Mall back home. Upstairs there is a nice restaurant just off of the main hallway.
We go find some empty chairs, all sit-down, and wait for Dad to get here. When he does, he tells us that we can all get something for dessert, since we had eaten packed lunches. Us kids rush to the counter with wide eyes. How are we supposed to pick something? Everything looks so good!!
I get Chocolate cake and this fancy latte, they’re both very good but I can’t even eat half of this cake… it is so sweet. My siblings get different things, hot chocolate, a smoothie, fruit tart, etc. It was a good way to end the day.
February 7th 9:09 am (3:09 am)
We are up, packing, and cleaning the “house” as we prepare to leave. Today we are going to Dublin, the main big city in Ireland. There is a college in Dublin that has the Book of Kells in the college’s old library. The Book of Kells is a manuscript of the gospels written in Latin. Evidently, when in Ireland, it is another must-do . The line to get in can tell you that much.
By the time we make it to Dublin, it is just past one in the afternoon. Unfortunately, now that we have made it, the library is closed… until 3. We are already slightly pressed for time and will already be on our way to the airport by then. We decide to walk around the college a little bit. In the student center, there are multiple rooms named “theatre” then followed by a single digit number. I am a big fan of theatre, so Dad tells me to go take a look. I open the door to “Theatre 3” and walk down the short hallway to the room’s opening. Note to self, “theatre” doesn’t necessarily mean stage, bright lights, and a grand drape. Oh no, theatres also include Imax-style lecture rooms… and that is what I found at the end of the hallway. Full of students. In the middle of class. Luckily, I came into the back of the classroom and only disrupted the few sitting in the back rows… Oops! We all piled back into our car and drove down the “wrong” side of the road all the way to the airport.
Amsterdam, here we come!