The Cliffs of Moher

Hello, Everyone! This will be my last blog post about Ireland. Last week, we left off at the Aran Islands. Whitney and I were on a tour with Wild Atlantic Way. After exploring the Aran Islands, we got back on the ferry and it took us to the Cliffs of Moher.

cliffs of moher 2
The ferry behind ours, for scale

I stood at the back of our ferry for this photo, and shortly thereafter, a wave crashed over the side and soaked my jeans. 😦 !!!

april cliffs of moher
Little did I know what was about to happen …

I went into the ferry’s bathroom and peeled off my jeans. It was way too cold to wear wet pants. I had leggings on underneath and decided that wearing only one layer was better than wearing a wet layer.

no pants
Attempting to dry my pants

The ferry returned to Doolin and we got back on the tour bus, which then drove us to the top of the cliffs. I had imagined visiting the Cliffs of Moher to be a tranquil experience, but it was a wind tunnel up there.

april cliffs of moher 2
So windy!
cliffs of moher 3
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cliffs of moher 4

Then, we got back on the bus to go back to Galway. We stopped twice along the way for photos.

irish countryside
Irish countryside
thatched roofs ireland
Thatched roofs

Here is a fun fact: Thatched roofs are falling out of popularity in Ireland, despite being excellent insulators. Because they are a natural material, they need to be replaced every 5-7 years and the cost each time (I forget the figure our tour guide gave) exceeds what it would cost to roof your house with a regular roof that lasts for a lifetime.

dunguaire castle ireland
Dunguaire Castle

After a day of being cold and pants-less, I treated myself to oysters for dinner. Of course, I stopped at our Airbnb to put on dry pants first. πŸ˜‰

oysters
My first time eating oysters in two years! My life is hard.

***

Friday, Whitney and I walked around Galway and visited shops and looked for souvenirs. We wanted to do a wine and cheese tasting that afternoon. I stopped at a local wine shop to ask the guy working there where he would suggest going. At first, I got a snarky reply, “Uh, go to a bar and buy a cheese plate.” I persisted in my cheerfulness, though (“Oh? Is there anywhere you would recommend?”) and the guy told me to go to the downstairs bar at Kasbah (better wine there than at its sister restaurant upstairs) and order a cheese plate down from the restaurant. He launched into Kasbah’s wine-buying strategies and when I finally left the shop, Whitney wondered what had taken me so long. πŸ™‚

I am glad I stopped to ask for a recommendation, because Kasbah ended up being our favorite bar that we visited in all of Ireland (and we went to a few *ahem*). We stopped by the (quiet) restaurant upstairs first, and then we wound our way downstairs to the bar, which was packed and lively. The wine and cheese were great!

cheeseplate

Well, friends, this marks the end of my stories of Ireland. The next day, Whitney and I returned to Dublin to fly to our respective homes. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my spring break trip!

My tips for the day:

  • Don’t stand at the end of the ferry for photos.
  • Wear waterproof pants if you are on a ferry.
  • If you are ever in Galway, stop for a drink at the downstairs bar at Kasbeh.

(I took this video on our last morning in Galway.)

Friday Gratitude: Straight Chillin

Happy Friday, everyone! I will be spending time in Pristina this weekend to celebrate my friend Chelsea’s birthday. πŸ™‚ I hope you all have fun stuff planned, too!

I’ve updated the sidebar of this website to include a list of every book I have read since serving in the Peace Corps, along with a 1-10 rating of how much I enjoyed each book. If you are looking for something new to read, check out my list!

Media consumption this week:

  • I actually finished this a few weeks ago but think I forgot to include it on my Friday post: The Light Between OceansΒ by M.L. Stedman. This took me a while to get into but it offered some good twists and turns by the end.
  • I read Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. It’s a fictional WWII story about a young girl contrasted with the story of a modern-day journalist researching the girl’s life. I really enjoyed it.

So, let me run this idea by you guys. As my time serving in the Peace Corps winds down, I am thinking of how/when to end this blog. I have toyed with the idea of starting a new blog to write about my life as an RPCV (that means “returned Peace Corps volunteer,” and yeah, I think it’s a super awkward term). But, I don’t think I will write another blog. I am thinking of writing a monthly email newsletter, though. I’ve really enjoyed keeping in touch with my friends and family back home as well as “meeting” new people through this blog. I am thinking the newsletter would be a quick round-up of things going on in my life … stuff I’ve crocheted, places I’ve traveled, etc. I’m curious to know if any of you would be interested/would sign up for it?

Monday’s posts will be my final post about Ireland. (Stay tuned to learn more about the Cliffs of Moher!) And then Wednesday’s guest blog post will be about serving in the Peace Corps as an LGBTQ+ volunteer. Good stuff! Enjoy your weekend and I will talk to you soon.

The Aran Islands

On Wednesday of our week in Ireland, Whitney and I woke to more rain. We trudged out to get donuts and pick up our handmade scarves because they had to be washed before we could wear them. Then we packed up at our hotel in Dublin, ate lunch, and jumped on a bus to Galway.

Galway Ireland
The view from our Airbnb in Galway
spanish arch galway
The Spanish Arch, Galway

We booked a tour of the Aran Islands/Cliffs of Moher for Thursday. It was through Wild Atlantic Way (highly recommend) and was an all-day event. We got on the tour bus at 9 a.m. and didn’t get back until 6 p.m.

The bus picked us up in Galway and drove us through the Burren (pronounced “burn”). According to Wikipedia, “The Burren is a region of County Clare in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone, with cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites.”

somewhere in the burren
A photo pitstop in the Burren

(Another fun pronunciation fact I learned in Ireland: I thought the word quays was pronounced “kways” but it is actually pronounced “keys.”)

The bus dropped us off at a ferry and the ferry took us out to one of the Aran Islands, where Gaelic is spoken as a first language.

Aran Islands
The Aran Islands
galic sign
Me with a sign in Gaelic
Aran Islands 1
The Aran Islands
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Ruins

It was freezing on the island. However, we saw palm trees! We learned an interesting fact on the tour bus: the rocks in this part of Ireland (don’t ask me which ones) are very good at conducting heat. Therefore, you see plant life that is only seen elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

palm trees aran islands
Tropical trees growing in very un-tropical weather

Whitney and I walked around a bit, visited a local shop, and then stopped at a pub for lunch. I had Irish stew. (The bartender told me, “That’ll keep you going for a while.”)

whitney aran islands
Whitney
aran islands 3
So many rocks!
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Local shop

At the pub, we saw a notice that the local lottery jackpot was up to 4,100 Euro. πŸ™‚

IMG_8209
Win big!
aran islands 5
My friend has a daughter named Saoirse so I took this photo for her. πŸ™‚
aran islands 7
Goodbye, Aran Islands!

After lunch, we got back on the ferry and headed out to see the Cliffs of Moher. Stay tuned for Monday’s post to read more about that. πŸ™‚ It’ll be my last post about Ireland! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the country through my experiences.

Tours in Dublin (including Guinness)

“Green, green / It’s green they say / on the far side of the hill. / Green, green / I’m going away / to where the grass is greener still.” — The New Christy Minstrels

After gray and rainy weather our first two days in Dublin and more rain in the forecast, Whitney and I lucked out that Tuesday. The weather defied the forecast and we later saw our first blue sky in Ireland!

april chester beatty library
The grounds of the Chester Beatty Library

Our first stop of the day was the Chester Beatty Library. Chester Beatty was a wealthy art collector and collected religious art and texts from all over Europe and Asia. What I liked about this museum was that it displayed works from Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I found the collection to be far more interesting than the Book of Kells.

Next, we jumped on the bus and headed for Kilmainham Gaol prison for a tour. This is where we hit a snag — I had bought a Groupon for the wrong prison! We had our Guinness tickets booked for later in the day and we couldn’t stay to tour Gaol at their next available tour time. 😦 Oh, well. This wasn’t my worst travel disaster. (Ask me about the time I missed my flight from Paris to Kosovo, or the time I was stuck at Luton airport for 21 hours).

With our sudden free time, we walked across the street to tour the grounds of the old Royal Hospital (which has now been converted into a modern art museum). Since the museum was free, we also went inside, though neither of us especially likes modern art.

hospital walk
First blue sky!
hedgehog
Don’t ask … I don’t know why!
april royal hospital grounds
Royal Hospital grounds

Next, we walked to the Guinness factory. This is Dublin’s most-popular tour. The exhibits are done well but beer production has since moved sites, so we didn’t actually see beer being made. We did get to sample beer, though, at the rooftop bar.

w and a
At Guinness
my first guinness
My first Guinness … I didn’t like it!
Dublin city view
The view from the rooftop bar

We ended the day with yet another tour — a literary pub crawl another friend had highly recommended. The tour was fun and informative. Our only complaint was that the pub stops were short (twenty minutes), which didn’t leave much time for drinking.

molly malone
Molly Malone statue, one stop during the pub crawl

My Dublin tips for the day:

  • If you like religious art, I highly recommend visiting the Chester Beatty Library and Museum. (Bonus: admission is free.) I enjoyed it more than the Book of Kells.
  • I like whiskey and I don’t like beer so I am bias in this opinion, but I enjoyed drinking at the bar at the Jameson Distillery far more than at the Guinness bar. While the Guinness bar had nice views, it was very crowded and difficult to find a seat. Jameson was much quieter and we could actually sit at the bar and chat with the bartenders.

 

Friday Gratitude: Double Digits

Hi, Everyone! I have a countdown on my phone until the day I COS (that means “close-of-service”) and I am now down to the double digits! WOW!

My media consumption list is from the last several weeks, since I took a break from blogging:

  • I read Looking for AlaskaΒ by John Greene. This is a book I found on my Kindle after a friend had downloaded a bunch of books for me. I hated Greene’s “The Fault in Our Stars” despite all the hype it got. “Alaska” was a bit better but … meh.
  • I read Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. My mom and grandpa love Lee Child’s books but this is the first time I’d ever read anything by him. It was an easy read though pretty violent. I probably won’t continue with the series. I’m not a big series reader in general … too much commitment. πŸ™‚
  • I read Firefly Lane: A Novel by Kristin Hannah. This was a quick read but not very well written, especially compared the other novel of hers I read, “The Nightingale.” It is also the type of book I hate, which I’ve come to think of as “miserable middle-aged women” novels. If you’re a middle-aged woman who is married with children, you’re probably unappreciated and miserable. If you’re a single middle-aged woman with a career, you’re probably lonely and miserable.
  • I read Holes by Louis Sachar before giving it to a student. I’d been curious about this book for years given how much acclaim its received. It was very … strange.
  • I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It is a story that skips back and forth between the collapse of civilization and the time before and focuses on a handful of characters that are loosely connected to one another. It was one of the best books I’ve read since I’ve been in Kosovo (and I’ve probably read 100 or more books).

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I tried my hand at cross-stitch recently. I had fun doing it and am looking forward to completing more projects in the future.

Next week’s posts will be more about my trip to Ireland, as will the following Monday’s post. I hope you’re not tired of hearing about my trip. I’ve got posts about the Guinness factory tour, the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher coming up … all exciting stuff!

Things to do on a Rainy Day in Dublin

On Monday in Dublin, it rained all day. Whitney and I had planned to visit the Book of Kells and do a walking tour of Trinity College. We decided to scrap the walking tour, since it was outside, and find something else to do in the morning. We had passed Christ Church cathedral the day before and felt inspired to go on a guided tour. I am glad we did because the tour ended up being one of my favorite things.

view from christ church

Christ Church is 1,000 years old.

christchurch floor
Cathedral floor
christ church stained glass
Stained glass

Our tour guide was funny and informative. We learned a lot about the history of Dublin and of the church. We even got to ring the church bells!

ringing the bells
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Also, Christ Church has a famous organ that was donated in the 1920s. The only problem was, it didn’t work. They took it apart and found a mummified cat and rat inside! This story was the inspiration behind the cartoon “Tom and Jerry.”

mumified cat and mouse

That afternoon, we went to see the Book of Kells and Trinity Library, both famous sites on the Trinity College campus. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript (meaning, a text supplemented with illustrations) of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that was created sometime around 800 AD. Pictures weren’t allowed, so I have none to show you. Several people had recommended the Book of Kells before I went on my trip. Honestly, though, it wasn’t my favorite thing that we did.

The Trinity Library had an impressive collection of books.

trinity library
Trinity College library

trinity library 2

It was still raining after our tours, so Whit and I decided to go to the Jameson Distillery for a drink at their bar. We had a great time sampling different whiskeys and shooting the breeze with the bartenders. We topped off our evening by pub-hopping near our hotel.

jameson distillery
Whitney


My Dublin tip for the day:
Take a guided tour of Christ Church cathedral!

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Knitting Class in Dublin, Ireland

Hi, everyone! Did you miss me? I am back to blogging after a full two weeks off. It’s been nice to have time away. I spent my spring break in Ireland with Whitney, my childhood friend.

I got to Dublin on a Saturday afternoon. Whit arrived the next morning (Easter Sunday) from Los Angeles. If it were me I would have been dead tired, but Whit was a real champ and arrived ready to see the city. She had a surprise planned for me and I had no idea what it was.

But first! We had to stop for a drink at Dublin’s oldest pub.

brazen head pub.jpg

Next up was the surprise. I had kind of thought it would be a facial or massage or something. I was wrong, though! Whitney took me to a loom knitting class where we got to make our own Merino wool scarves. (How cool is that?!)Β We took our class with Liadian Aiken.

knitting class
Knitting class
choosing yarn
Choosing our yarn colors
plotting colors
Plotting colors on a grid
loom
Setting up the loom …
threading the loom
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sample
Starting with a sample

Things went well at first but then my yarn kept falling off the hooks. Righting it was a tedious process where our instructor had to re-hook each loop back on the loom. My yarn fell off about five or six times. 😦

knitting going well
When things went well …
knitting mistake
When things did not go well 😦 !!!

But FINALLY we finished and I am really happy with the result.

Now I have a beautiful, warm scarf that I handmade and that will remind me of Ireland and spending time with Whitney. πŸ™‚ I love it so much! I wore it all week.

Here’s a little video of some live pub music that evening:

I’ve got lots more to share about Ireland. Four upcoming posts will be about my trip.