The first day we got to Kylemore we booked a tour to visit Renvyle and do a Famine Tour.
We met up with our guide and drove around Renvyle. I wanted to do this tour because I had researched a lot about the potato famine and the devastating loss the Irish had to endure. I also wanted Sue to see the Connemara Loop again, this time with a little less detours. On the tour we found Dale’s House right down the road from Renvyle Castle. The castle Grace O’Malley the famous pirate queen sometimes lived at when she was not away at sea.
After the tour we went into Leenane for our seaweed baths.
I had never done anything like this before and was super skeptical about sitting in a hot bath with seaweed. It was really cool though. You start by spending about 15 minutes in a sauna to open your pores and then you get in a very hot seaweed bath and it’s suppose to detox you. I enjoyed popping the seaweed pods and relaxing while staring out at the view. The only distracting part was knowing at the end of the bath you would stand up and the shower head above you would empty out freezing cold water from the mountains above. I stressed out fornothing and it was actually the best part.
When I got back to the hotel I took a proper shower and headed downstairs in my cozies to relax by the fire place and catch up with what we wanted to do for the rest of the day. It turns out that we wanted to just hang out and relax.
I said it before and I will probably say it a million times; we spent the rest of our trip chasing that level of relaxation and we never found it. It almost felt like our vacation ended that day and we were now on an adventure into the unknown.
Next up…Enniskillen and the caves.
I’m going to skip the story about how I almost died in a hotel room in Dublin and the castle that when we got there, I took a bath and slept the whole day and through the night because of having to stay alive in a hotel room in Dublin was exhausting. It wasn’t one of the finer points of the trip.
So completely skipping that day….we woke up in a castle and had a great breakfast, but now it was on to Day 4 and that means we head to my absolute FAVORITE place in all of Ireland, Kylemore Pass Hotel with Stuart and Rose.
The last trip to Ireland we were in a pub in Doolin waiting for a seat when a couple waved us over to sit with them. This couple was from the US and we got to talking over a pint. They said that they came to Doolin on their first trip out and they loved it so much that they knew that they needed a few more days in that town so they booked another trip out and stayed longer. That trip they decided that a few days wasn’t enough so they booked their third trip to Ireland and stayed even longer in this little town. I thought they were nuts when they said that after the 3rd trip to Ireland that they were done, but this was their 7th trip out to Ireland and in this small town…they were staying 3 months this time. I asked why didn’t they just move there. “Have you ever been to Ireland in the winter?” They were from the midwest so they knew cold, but Ireland is a different kind of cold in the winter.
I tell you that story because I get those people on a whole new level. I feel the same damn way about Connemara and mostly Kylemore Pass. The first trip was one night. This trip it was 2. The trip in 2020 will be a whole week. I can guess that on my 7th trip I will be there for 3 months.
We pulled up and I was so excited to finally be back and to be able to share this awesome place with Sue. The car ride over, in between laughing and looking at the amazing landscape we talked about The Pass and how much we were made to feel like home the minute we walked in. This trip was exactly the same. I almost cried when I saw Stuart and my old room! We were only there for less than an hour and Sue said, “Yep. This is the place.”
Knowing that she ‘got’ it too made me relax even more. This was the relaxing part of our trip and we would be chasing this level of relaxation for the rest of our trip…it wouldn’t get much better than this though.
Stuart made us some vegetable soup and after a bite to eat, a pint and some great stories we made our way to the Loop to go to Paddy Coynes and see if we could find ‘Dale’s House’.
The best thing about Ireland is the people. The best part about traveling around Connemara, Tully Cross, Renvyle, Letterfrack and Leenane is that all the locals know each other and they will tell you hysterical stories about the other. Everywhere we went the locals would ask where we were staying and when we would say, “Kylem-” they would interrupt with a boisterous, “THE PASS!! you’re staying with Rose and Stuart! Let me tell you about the time I was having a pint at the Pass….” and an hour later we would have some funny stories to take back to Stuart so he could counter them with even funnier ones about those people.
The day was filled with Kylemore Abby and the walled garden. We drove the loop and saw the beaches. It was a day of relaxing.
That first night we hung out in the bar in our comfy clothes and listened to stories from the locals. When I say we hung out…we took over. Dale was the bartender the whole time. Not just for our group, but for anyone that came in. When we checked out a couple of days later, Stuart said he never had a customer that kept such an honest tab behind the bar.
The next day was a trip around the loop with the famine tour…but I’ll tell you that story tomorrow.
The first night in Dublin we were planning on what we could do on our last day. We kicked around the idea of taking Sue to see Trinity College or maybe take the Guinness tour and have a drink in the gravity bar. These were both things that Dale and I did the first trip to Ireland and yes they were both cool, but with limited time and a completely different route this time we knew she was going to miss seeing some really neat things that we got to see. We decided to catch a tour bus to Glendalough and Kilkenny.
Leaving Dublin the tour guide pointed out things I didn’t know about the city and gave us trivia about the local roadways. Any bit of useless knowledge and I am like a sponge wanting to know more.
The building started to fade away and the trees replaced them as we neared the entrance into the Wicklow mountains. I purposely gave Sue the window seat so she could be taken away into another land and because if she saw the size of the road to St. Kevin’s tower she would probably barf. The roads are small by US standards. My street is the size of a 4 lane road in Ireland. My driveway could be the foundation for a home. As a country, we are excessive and that is never more clear to me as when I am sitting shotgun on the wrong side of the car on an Irish road.
“Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland, renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin.” Our tour guide told us what he knew of St. Kevin, his tower and how he had to hide from the ladies because he was quite the looker.
After a couple of hours of cruising around the settlement and learning even more than the last time I was there, we climbed on the bus and headed to Kilkenny. The last trip out this is where Dale and I decided to take a side tour and adventure off map. This was a huge mistake as Kilkenny is a popular place for tourists and we cruised into town just as kids were getting let out of school. It was a cluster and we never got to see the castle. This time we would.
The castle was renovated and I found that the exterior and the great hall of photos seemed to be the only part that felt authentic. The little girl that never thought she would see a castle in real life was now picky about the castles she did get to see! It’s just that on my last adventure to Ireland where we traveled the south end, I visited a TON of castles and the ones that I found most fascinating were the ones that were ones that weren’t renovated, but standing by their own will after all those years.
The rooms were decorated with period pieces and a photographer’s dream. The best part though was the room with all the photos. I believe I could have spent a month in there just looking at the paintings of the people and reading about them. When I got home I was watching a show called Building Ireland and it had Kilkenny Castle as its feature. It was interesting to hear the history behind it.
We finished off the tour and made our way into town for a Guinness.
We arrived back in Dublin and headed for dinner at Castle and after into the Temple Bar district to see if we could get some trad music for Sue to enjoy. We landed in a pub with none other than a member of The Dubliners who played all our favorite songs and made it a night we wouldn’t forget.
With a night of singing and drinking we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the long 3 plus hour drive in the morning to a place I hadn’t stayed at yet, Ballynahinch Castle.
Stayed tuned for day 3 and the story about how I almost died in a hotel room in Dublin.
When I was a little girl I read stories of castles. They weren’t real, they were just drawn pictures in a Disney book. When I got older and I saw a photo of a castle in a book it made it a little bit more real. As an adult I would read books that took places in castles and see movies with castles in it. People were able to actually walk around in these places and my mind was now open. I would say “someday” and I remember the moment when I said to myself, “only rich people get to have passports and travel.” It was heartbreaking.
There is something so powerful about holding your passport in your hand. All those things I had told myself were no longer true. I didn’t need to know a different language, I didn’t need to be the smartest person in the class, I didn’t need to have tons of money. All I needed was to tell myself that I could travel. I could walk around in castles. I could go to other places and open my mind to what is REALLY out there.
Every day people say there are going to go on a family vacation, bring all the kids to Hawaii or see the world and they NEVER go. They start the planning, get everyone all excited, but “life” happens and they make excuses as to why it never happened. People often blame other people for their inability to follow through. The truth is that you can’t just plan to go, talk about going, save up a few bucks. You have to follow through with EVERY SINGLE DETAIL. Not everyone can do that. I did though and I am the most unlikely person to be able to make that happen. I work an auto shop making wayyyyyy below what I am worth for what I do.
The first step is finding a travel agent that will hold you accountable. He won’t let you back out after a month or when shit gets tight. This person will keep you motivated to go and will adjust things to make sure that you can follow through.
Next is you need to be passionate about where you’re going. I’ve been to Ireland twice now and it’s because I FUCKING LOVE IT. I know I have another trip out there before I can even start thinking about the place I want to see after it.
You have to have to want it more than anything you have ever wanted in the past. Your passion to see this place has to be bigger than your fear.
Find a travel buddy that you can spend a few weeks with that at the end of those weeks you don’t want to kill. The first trip out I had Dale and it was perfect because we could go places and ditch each other to have our own experiences. We would meet up later and talk about what we saw. This last trip my travel buddy was Sue, Dale’s mom. There has never been two travel buddies better in the history of time than the two of us. All long, out of country trips will be made with Sue. Her and I were in sync the whole trip and laughed so much. She made it a true vacation for me. Dale went with us, but he brought someone who was his partner that trip.
The next part is the hardest. Putting away that money and not spending it. Everyone has put away money and “life” happens. The dog went to the vet, the car broke down, a bill you thought you can let slide is now a few months behind.
I got a envelope and I started putting whatever left over money I had in my purse, wallet, car or side job money I had in there and I would set small goals — $200. When that envelope had $200 in it I would seal it up and go get another envelope. The first time I had $1000.00 I put all the sealed envelopes into another bigger envelope and sealed it. That was the turning point. In order go to Ireland I would need about 4000.00 to pay for my flight, hotel, rooms, food and excursion trips. As soon as I could I bought my airline ticket. Once that was bought there was no back out. The race for the 3 other envelopes began!
Everyone just see’s the photos and hears the stories of the cool places I saw. They didn’t see HOW I made it happen and I think that was the most important part, because I want to motivate just one person to travel to another country and see how they live. To open their eyes to how differently we live than the rest of this big giant planet would be the greatest gift. Traveling for me isn’t about getting a couple of weeks away, it’s about learning all that I can about the people that make that little part of the planet theirs so special and unique. Learning about their culture, their rich history and the words they use to communicate is my favorite thing.
I will see more of this wonderful planet…because I follow through.
The whole lose a day, gain a day thing is always confusing and this time it messed me up as I was planning what to do in Dublin, Ireland.
When I knew I was going to be there on Easter Sunday I made plans to do the Easter Rising tour on Sunday, but I forgot to factor in jet lag and Easter parades.
We landed in Dublin and hit the ground running. We dropped our bags in the hotel that sat directly across from Christchurch Cathedral and began the trip off with a Guinness. Oh the heavenly taste of a proper Guinness was enough to spark our adventurous souls.
Sue and I made our way down to Trinity College center to wait for our tour while Dale and Jess hit up some of the local pubs.
After about 30 minutes of the tour the exhaustion of the long flight and no sleep kicked in and despite my anticipation of how amazing the tour was going to be, I was ready to finish up and go to sleep.
After the tour we snuck in a short nap before we headed off to The Brazen Head for Irish Stew and Guinness. The last time I was in Dublin I was told by Mick that we MUST go into the Brazen Head because it was the oldest pub in all of Dublin and it had to be checked off our list of MUST SEE places. The only problem with the stew is that you will spend the rest of your trip trying to find Irish Stew that tastes as good. Hint: you will not find it.
After dinner we kicked around the city and made our way to the Cobblestone for some trad music and good conversation. We must have gotten in too late, because it was standing room only. We were ready to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere, but it wasn’t meant to be. The first day in Dublin ended with a nice walk along the river Liffey and drinks in the bar at the hotel.
While we were waiting we saw a rack of brochures with hundreds of day trips out of Dublin. One of them was out to Glendalough and the Wicklow mountains. Dale and I had already seen both places on our last trip and knew that it would be a good thing to get of Dublin for the day and see some of what makes Ireland so beautiful. We signed up for the next day to catch a tour bus. What an adventure that was!
Spent a great day hiking through the forest and being a kid again.
I need another 2 or more weeks or lifetimes to explore!!
- Bathing suit for spa days at the castle
- Phone charger
There is so much to do before I leave tomorrow, but it’s all manageable. I got this!
A week from now I will be cruising around Dublin on Easter Sunday…so what’s with the anxiety?
It’s just typical me worried about the stupid shit. I’m prepared. I have all my confirmations, my ticket, my passport, RealID driver’s licenses, medication and my GLASSES. I should be okay, but that doesn’t stop that sudden fear and cold panic that washes over me RIGHT before I fall asleep. Last night I opened Google Maps and I followed the route we will be taking and tried to pronounce the name of the towns we will pass through.
It might have helped. The downfall was looking at all the towns and then googling them makes me want to stop in each one and explore and there isn’t enough time for that.
My next post will probably be from Ireland. Stay tuned.