Thursday, April 2, 2009

And we will drive 1200 miles...

Well, Mom, Dad, Nicole, and Jennie have come and gone and man, did we have an amazing trip! The rest of Ireland is so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it to be (and nothing like Dublin) and I'm so glad I was able to experience it all with (most) of my family. I don't even know where to begin, there's so much to tell and so many pictures to share. The number of sheep pictures we have alone is ridiculous!

*WARNING* A lot of reading ahead! Feel free to read it all or just look at the pictures.
This acts as a journal for our family trip and will be put into a photo book, so I didn't want to miss out on any details. We have heaps more pictures too but not all of them are on my computer so you'll just have to wait for the book to see them all. Enjoy!

Day 1: March 11, 2009

Dublin, Co. Dublin
I grabbed a taxi at 7:00am to meet Mom, Dad and Nicole (who was looking very fashionable in her HUGE green St. Paddy's Day glasses) at the airport. Immediately after they arrived, we sorted out our rental car and began our Ireland Roadtrip! It took a few spins around the first round-a-bout until Dad got the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road. I must say, him and Nicole were great drivers on Ireland's tricky, narrow and windy roads. Lucky for me, I got to avoid the driver's seat since you have to be 25 to drive a rental car. Also lucky for me, I was delegated as the official navigator, so I got to ride shot gun the entire trip! Unlucky for me, that meant I couldn't sleep like the rest of them in the back seat.

Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny
This was our first stop and first time getting out of the car. We had a little trouble locking the doors and after pressing every button imaginable with still no success, Dad called the car company and asked what the trick was. Their simple solution: "See that button on the key? Press that." Needless to say, we felt like idiots after that, but we sure got a good laugh out of it! We wandered around the quaint town of Kilkenny, took pictures of the castle, and had coffee and bagels for lunch in a sweet little cafe that had the coolest spiral staircase and cow mugs.

Strolling Kilkenny Streets with Ma and Pa

Nicole looking for the Kilkenny Castle - look behind you, sis!

Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Our next destination was the historic Rock of Cashel ruins. The Rock of Cashel consists of a group of medieval buildings - a large cathedral, an ancient round tour, a castle, and a chapel - perched atop a dramatic outcrop of limestone in the town of Cashel. We snapped some photos of this beautiful site, but didn't go in because we were on a mission and had other things to do and see before the sun set!

An Irish Settler in front of an Irish door in Ireland!

The Rock of Cashel

Curvy road ahead on our way to Blarney

Sheep stop #1

Blarney, Co. Cork
Touring the Blarney Castle was the best part of the day. The weather was great and the scenery was even more amazing. We trekked up the steep and narrow staircase of the castle all the way to the top to do what we've all been waiting for - kiss the Blarney Stone! Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone gives the kisser the gift of gab and eloquent speech. 300,000 people kiss the Stone each year, and that's exactly why my Mom was NOT going to do it! She was so grossed out by the idea of all of the germs that she refused to kiss it. I was the first to go, and I was actually a little freaked out. To kiss the Stone, you must lay on your back, grab the iron rails, then lean over the edge of the castle floor upside down until you reach the Stone with your lips. There is an assistant who holds you and iron rails below that would prevent anyone from falling 90 feet to their death, but you can still see down and hanging upside down from the top of a castle kind of gave me an uneasy feeling. Finally, with some persuasion and a request that the assistant spray the Stone with disinfectant, my Mom got down, kissed that bloody Stone, and hasn't shut up since! (Just kidding, Mom!)

Welcome to Blarney Castle

Me kissing the Blarney Stone

Nicole's turn

Dad claimed it cured it shoulder!

Last but not least, Mama finally kisses it

The beginning of Nicole's jumping pictures

Cool pic that Nicole snapped of Dad

Kinsale, Co. Cork
By the time we hit Kinsale, the jet lag and whole whack of sightseeing was starting to catch up with everyone. We settled into Friar's Lodge, a nice B&B where we all shared one large family room. Nicole and I did the research and booking of our accommodation and we warned Mom and Dad not to get too used to B&B life, since we'd be staying in hostels for the rest of the trip and it was all going downhill from here. Kinsale is Ireland's gourmet capital, and we enjoyed our first (but certainly not last) delicious fish and chip meal for dinner. Dad was dosing off in the restaurant, so it's no surprise that he and Mom went back to our room to hit the sack. But Nicole and I were determined that every night of this trip, we will go to the pub. And to the pub we went! We walked around the harbor and up a hill to a traditional little pub called The Spaniard. This was the real deal. It was dark with stone walls, the fireplace was crackling and the air was smoky, and a traditional session was underway with six or so musicians gathered around a table in the corner. We were lovin' life!

Colourful Kinsale homes

The Spaniard

Beautiful Irish scenery

Day 2: March 12, 2009

Kinsale, Co. Cork
The next morning we enjoyed the breakfast part of the B&B, strolled the cute harbor town of Kinsale, then continued onward. We stopped at Charles Fort, where I wandered off on my own to take pictures. I went back to the car to wait for the fam, when I heard them frantically yelling my name and freaking out because they thought they lost me. Nicole thought I fell in the ocean, Mom thought I got stolen, and Dad said it was a flashback to when I was three years old, running loose and getting lost in Sears. I thought the whole thing was kinda funny, but they actually thought I went missing! Oopsy.

From there, we were on a mission to get to Old Head Golf Links, a world-class private championship golf course just outside of Kinsale. My Dad had researched this prior to visiting Ireland and even e-mailed them about a private tour. He never heard anything back, so we figured we'd take a drive there and see it for ourselves. The drive was beautiful and it was our first real glimpse at Ireland's rolling hills and green pastures. It got increasingly foggy as we neared the golf course - so foggy that you could barely see the ocean. We arrived only to be stopped by a no entry sign. My Dad called the number on the sign, told them we were here from Canada and just wanted to walk a few holes, and they let us up! I don't do golf, but the scenery alone was amazing. You could tell by my Dad's reaction too that it was really something special. The holes were surrounded by rocky cliffs that steeply dropped off to the ocean, a lighthouse, and the greenest greens you'll ever see. The fog and mist added to the whole effect (and so did the rabbits that were the size of a small horse!)

Kinsale harbour

Charles Fort

Cemetery stop #1

Welcome to Old Head

The old head at Old Head!

Nicole frolicking in the fields

Coastal and Mountain Drive from Kinsale, Co. Cork to Kenmare, Co. Kerry
The more we drove, the better the scenery got. It's crazy how quickly the landscape changes in Ireland. One minute we're stopping at sandy beaches to watch the surfer dudes, the next minute we're at the top of rocky, deserted and burnt-looking mountains, driving through tunnels, rain and fog...and stopping to take pictures of sheep.

Sheep stop #2

Cemetery stop #2

Sheep stop #3

Colourful towns

Kenmare, Co. Kerry
Kenmare Lodge Hostel: Mom and Tom's first hostel experience! They're lucky we're good at picking accommodation, because this place was actually pretty nice. We did a real hostel-like thing by getting take-away, picking up beer from the convenient store, and bringing it back to the hostel to enjoy. It was late by the time we finished up, and you know what that means? To the pub we go! We lucked out again and heard some great traditional Irish music. This place wasn't as authentic feeling as The Spaniard in Kinsale, but heck, we're in Ireland! How much more authentic does it get?! On our way back to the hostel, Nicole thought it would be a good idea to hit up one last pub along the way. She pushed her way through a crowded doorway to another pub and checked out what was happening inside. She came out and reported back that "it's a pub, a well-lit pub." Little did she know that she walked in on a funeral reception, which explains the "well-lit" part, and all of the men in suits and children hanging around. Oh man, we were cracking up the whole way back to the hostel!

Our hostely dinner

Day 3: March 13, 2009

Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry
We started the day off by driving the Ring of Kerry - a 170km coastal drive starting in Kenmare and ending in Killarney. It was a rugged, curvy excursion along the cliff edges!

A rainbow from end-to-end

Killarney, Co. Kerry
We met up with Jennie at The Sugan Hostel in Killarney (a really funky hostel that we stayed at with mugs hanging from the ceiling) and grabbed some pub grub for lunch. We then went on a horse drawn tour of Killarney National Park. Our tour guide was a hilarious old Irish man who called Nicole "Nickola" and my Mom "Lollie." We rode through forest, mountains and lakes, stopped at a 19th century mansion called the Muckross House, and walked through a leprechaun forest (every tree was totally covered in green moss) which ended at the Torc Waterfall. It poured on us during our ride back, but a little rain never killed anyone!

After a little nap, we were re-energized and ready for a night on the town. We found a good little Chinese food restaurant for dinner, then headed to the pub. Our night ended at O'Donoghue's, and man do I have a story for you. It's gross and probably inappropriate, but it has to be told! So we're at the pub and can't help but notice this man (who looks like an older version of Sean Penn) and how drunk he was. We laughed every time he walked by because he was so completely out of it. That was, until, he walked by one last time and a horrible stench followed. It turns out that he crapped his pants right in front of us and left evidence on the pub floor! It was the most disgusting thing we'd ever seen and we all ran out the door, trying not to barf. To top it all off, my Mom, not realizing Sean Penn has pooped his pants, stepped right in his "business" as she followed us out. Jennie has never laughed harder than at the site of my Mom trying to clean her shoes of human poop outside of the pub. You think that's bad? Well, it gets worse. Further up the street, it appears Mr. Penn has managed to leave the bar, but he didn't get very far. He was on the sidewalk, on all fours, his pants down, can probably figure out for yourselves what the rest looked like. It wasn't pretty. By this time we were too grossed out to even think about having another pint, so we headed back to the hostel - making fun of Mom and her shitty shoes along the way - and called it a night.

The Sugan Hostel

My t.v. dinner - yummy!

Killarney National Park

Muckross House

Leprechaun forest

How many leprechauns can you spot?

Torc Waterfall

Day 4: March 14, 2009

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
The Dingle Peninsula is the most Westerly point of Ireland and one of the most spectacular drives we did. We stopped to take in the beautiful patchwork of green fields and had a fun photo-op at Inch Beach. Nicole has this thing for taking pictures of us jumping mid-air. The result is cool, but I have a serious problem actually getting off the ground. We planned to spend the entire day driving around the Peninsula, then spending the night in the town of Dingle. Well, we hammered through that drive pretty quickly and it only took us a couple hours. So we stopped in Dingle for some fish and chips, hopped on a ferry, and found our way to the wonderful town of Doolin instead.

A fort of some sort...

We'd still be lost to this day if it weren't for that Garmin!

This was our third try and I finally got off the ground!

Sheep stop #4

Dingle harbour

The lovely town of Dingle

Deep fried Snickers - soooo good!

The Krueger's do Ireland!

Jennifer stretching out on the ferry

Doolin, Co. Clare
I think we'll all agree that our night in Doolin was the best part of our trip. Doolin is the home of traditional Irish music and only three pubs. Our goal when we first arrived was to find accommodation since we hadn't pre-booked anything here. We stopped at the very first hostel we saw and booked one dorm room with bunk beds that we all shared like one big happy family. I don't think Mom was too impressed, especially since they didn't heat the place. The town was teenie tiny and there was no one in sight. It was dusk and dark and looked rather abandoned. We went into Gus O'Connor's for yet another pub grub meal and quickly discovered that that's where all the people were! There was an awesome vibe in the pub and traditional bands playing in every corner. We grabbed ourselves one of the only seats left in the house and enjoyed good food, good music, and good company. Mid-way through the night my Dad overheard the table next to us say "Well, let's do this already!" Next thing you know, they're strapping on bagpipes and drums and marching through the pub! No one expected it, the Irish bands who were interrupted were shocked, but they quickly joined in with their banjos and everyone was standing and cheering and singing along. It was AMAZING, something you just have to see in person and experience for yourself. I had chills the whole time. That's one thing I like about pubs in Ireland. It's not just about drinking like it is at home. Families and people of all ages gather to socialize, listen to the music, and sing. It's just a happy place to be! We stayed at Gus O'Connor's until the wee hours of the morning. Dad even came back to the hostel with an Irish rugby jacket on, which he traded with someone for his Canadian hockey jersey.

Jam session

Haha, now this one just makes me laugh!

Day 5: March 15, 2009

Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, Co. Clare
We were all a bit sluggish after our big night in Doolin but there was no time to waste and we woke up early with a full day ahead. Our first stop were the Cliffs of Moher, rising 120 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. I had already seen the Cliffs with Matt, but it was just as breathtaking the second time around. We then drove through the Burren, a very unique and rocky landscape in Northwestern Ireland. The roads were tricky and it took lots of concentration for my Dad to drive. Though, a rock still managed to jump out at us and took a hub cap with it. We stopped and Nicole ran down to grab the mangled hub cap which Dad snapped back on despite me suggesting he just put it in the trunk. It was at our next stop at the Poulnabrone portal tomb where we discovered the hub cap was gone for good!

The Cliffs

Rocky Burren drive

Our sweet ride, sans hub cap

Nice hat, Pops!

Galway, Co. Galway
The first thing I did when we arrived at our hostel in Galway was make the four boxes of Mac and Cheese that Khrista sent with Nicole. What a treat - they don't sell it here! We had a much needed nap, grabbed some dinner, then headed to The Quay's pub which, inside, is designed like you're on a ship. You could tell that we were really exhausted from the early mornings and sightseeing as we stared at each other blankly and ordered waters instead of Guinness. We packed things in pretty early that night.

Galway was very busy with beer trucks picking up and dropping off kegs in preparation for St. Paddy's Day

Street entertainment...ouch!

Totally knackered

Day 6: March 16, 2009

Dublin, Co. Dublin
It was nice to be "home," do laundry and relax a little since it's been go-go-go for five days straight. We all got settled into our homes for the next four nights - Nicole and Jennie were crashing on our couches and Mom and Dad got a hotel about a 20 minute walk from us. We met up for dinner at a dee-lish Asian noodle bar called Wagamama's, then grabbed a pint in Farrington's pub in Temple Bar. It was another early night for us in preparation for the big day ahead!

Day 7: March 17, 2009

Happy St. Paddy's Day and Happy 30th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Dublin, Co. Dublin
St. Patrick's Day is an all day affair in Dublin. We woke up at 7:00am ready to put on our green gear and paint our faces. We were out on the streets by 11:00am. It's amazing how many people get into it here - everyone is dressed up in green paraphernalia. Nicole, Jennie, Matt and I went to the Jameson Distillery to visit the guys from Toronto radio station 102.1 The Edge. Jennie told the security guard that we were there to see Dean Blundell and they escorted us into a big room where 40 radio stations from around the world were broadcasting for St. Paddy's Day. We said hello, they mentioned us Kitchener girls on the radio and then we were off to see the parade. We met up with Mom and Dad on O'Connell Street. How we even found them amongst the billions of people, I don't know. There was no way we could even get a glimpse of the parade, so we decided to hit the pub early before the crowds got there. We got a good seat in The Quay's in Temple Bar and stayed there for most of the day. It filled in pretty quickly, and going to the bathroom was a 20 minute least. Outside in the Temple Bar streets, people were packed shoulder to shoulder with whistles and drums, cheering and chanting and jumping around for hours. At this point, Mom and Dad had already left us to go do their own thing. I don't blame them, it was nuts! We went to some different pubs, then ended up back in Temple Bar later that night. Nicole and Jennie took off on their own and got lost in Dublin and had to take a cab home, while Matt and I met up with some friends and danced the night away!

Parade goers

Pub goers

Temple Bar streets

Posing for the camera

Day 8: March 18, 2009

Newgrange, Co. Meath
We took a day trip to Newgrange, a passage-tomb constructed around 3200BC. That makes it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt and 1000 years more ancient than Stonehenge. The cool thing about Newgrange is it's alignment with the sun. On the Winter Solstice, the light of the rising sun enters the roofbox and penetrates the passage, shining onto the floor of the inner chamber. The sunbeam illuminates the chamber for just 17 minutes. If you want to be present for this magical experience, add your name to the bottom of the ten year waiting list!

Another foggy day


I like this one of Dad

It took a lot of work to get this "smile" out of him!

Banbridge, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
We crossed the border to Northern Ireland (part of the UK) to visit friend's that my parents met on their cruise who had invited the six of us for dinner. We arrived at their very big, beautiful stone house that had every inch of wall space filled with original, traditional and contemporary Irish artwork. It was like walking through an art gallery - you'd never get bored in their home! We toured their magnificent place, had a delicious home cooked meal with lovely company, then made our way back to Dublin for the night.

Day 9: March 19, 2009

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Jenny left us to go travel on her own for a few days and visit some of her Irish relatives. Mom, Dad, Nicole and I took another day trip to Glendalough, a glacial valley found deep within the Wicklow mountains. The drive through Wicklow National Park was "mysterious and magical" and this is where many of the scenes of P.S. I Love You were filmed. It looked a lot different than the movie though because the Heather was all dried up. Once in Glendalough, we spent a lot of time taking pictures in the Monastic City (an old cemetery) and strolled through the forest surrounded by two lakes. The weather was perfect!

Heading toward the Wicklow mountains

Cemetery stop #3

Nicole's a bit of a tree hugger

Day 10: March 20, 2009

Dublin, Co. Dublin
This was the fam's last night in Ireland, so what better way to send them off than to spend the night in Ireland's oldest pub - the Brazen Head. Nicole invited some of her Irish friends out who she met in Australia and we all enjoyed some great live music, which happened to include an amazing spoon man. Mom and Dad were leaving early the next morning, so we said our goodbyes at the pub (good thing we were in public, otherwise there could have been a lot more tears!) Nicole, her friend, Matt and I ended up at a dance club until 5:30 in the morning and poor Nicole had to a call a cab at 6:00 to head to the airport!

Day 11: March 21, 2009

Dublin, Co. Dublin
By the time I woke up, everyone was gone. It was sad to have to say goodbye to my family for the second time. My trip to Ireland has made me realize how much I really do love and miss home. But I'm so happy we got to conquer the Emerald Isle together, and it has definitely been the best part of my Irish experience so far.

Love you guys!!!



Danealla said...

Alex! What a lovely fairytale to have read! Every part of that journal made me want to be there right along side you guys and Ireland seems that much more incredible!! I'm happy you all had an amazing journey, and even though you're having a blast right now, you're being missed!!!
PS: I've never laughed so hard at Sean Penn!!! haha
xo nella

katie said...

I watched Mystic River last night starring Sean Penn and that is all I could think about.

Anonymous said...

it tooks me about a week (with breaks) to read this, but i enjoyed it none the less!