Friday, October 24, 2008

From Doolin to Annascaul

There’s a lot of driving involved in this trip. I suppose it doesn’t have to be this way, but when you want to see so much of the country, it feels like the only way to do it. And the thing about driving in Ireland is you may not actually travel far distances, but because the roads are so narrow and the “main roads” aren’t anything like we’re used to back home, it takes FOREVER to get from point A to point B. Especially when you get stuck behind a slow driver or a tractor. Or sheep.

Today I had the best breakfast I’ve had in Ireland. It also happened to be the only breakfast I’ve managed to not sleep through. After a hearty meal and a spot of rain, followed by a gorgeous double freaking rainbow, we packed our things up and then headed down to the Doolin Harbor. I’d been here before, but holy god, because of the rain the water was so harsh. We could see the waves hitting the rocks and huge splashes of water well before we arrived at the actual harbor.

This short video shows you how choppy the water was and how much of a spray was created from the waves hitting land. Also gives you a great idea of how windy it was! (Keep your volume down).

Before going to the Cliffs of Moher, we stopped “in town” which consists of maybe eight (colorful) buildings. Kara got me the world’s best birthday present which has literally changed the course of my entire life. I almost don’t want to put it up here, because it’s the perfect present for at least three people I can think of off the top of my head. Anyway, it’s so super fun and makes people stare at you in amazement. A car slowly crept up to me in Doolin and the driver said “I saw you using that thing in the pub last night. What is it?” They actually took down the name and website address so they could buy one. I highly recommend it and have a bunch of suggested modifications.

Doolin is one of my favorite places because of how quaint and picturesque the village is. Check it out for yourself:

We made a quick stop on the side of the road to check out a castle in Doolin.

From there we headed out to see the Cliffs of Moher. I’ve been fortunate to have a miraculous view of the cliffs each time I’ve come to Ireland. They are amazing and beautiful. And each time I’ve visited them, it’s been a bit different. You can really tell how developed Ireland is getting. As I mentioned yesterday based on what we saw in Doolin, there has been so much construction and development in this country. My first trip to the Cliffs was with Kara in 2000. We parked the car and walked maybe a ¼ of a mile right straight out to the Cliffs. You could walk around without restriction. Heck, you could lie down and look over the Cliffs if you wanted to. When I returned with Steve on our honeymoon six years later, there was a huge parking lot on the opposite side of the street. You had to go into this massive welcome center (complete with a huge gift shop, cafeteria style) and pay to go see the Cliffs. This time, the pay parking lot was still there, but there was no welcome center. There was a bunch of renovating done and there were all these shops built into the side of the hill and another massive building which housed the gift shop, a cafe and a restaurant on the upper level. It makes all the sense in the world that they'd turn something like that into a commercialized profit-turning tourist location, but it's such a huge difference from what I've experienced and makes me a little sad for what Ireland could turn into.

Despite all that, we had a fun time at the Cliffs. They're just so beautiful. And it was a gorgeous, windy day which made picture taking even more fun! See for yourself:

This visit was special not only because there were 12 people I knew there, but because we decided to spread a little bit of my father's ashes there. After we snapped away tons of pictures, my Mom, Katie, Meghan & I took a few minutes alone to scatter the ashes and say "Welcome Home, Dad."

After we took care of that, we went our separate ways. Some headed north and some headed south. For those of us heading south, we planned on meeting at the car ferry to head over to the Dingle Peninsula.

I was really excited about this part of the trip because I'd never been this far south and it would be new territory for me. On the drive it was fun to go past places I had been to with Steve on our honeymoon. When we drove through Lahinch, a surfing spot, I pulled over and snapped the same picture from my last trip. Only this time my husband wasn't with me, sigh, and no one had food poisoning.

After the car ferry we drove through Listowel and had a great meal- probably one of the best I've had in Ireland- based garlic mussels. This is also where Katie and McKenzie spotted Corridans! Unfortunately she spotted them in a cemetery and on a for sale sign. But still...

When we started to enter the part of Ireland that leads you to the Dingle Peninsula, we saw some of the most beautiful parts of the country that I've ever seen. I was bummed that we arrived so late because we couldn't really take any pictures and we weren't heading back the same way. I was able to snap a few pictures though and hopefully it gives you an idea of just how green and lush this part of Ireland is.

I will definitely be back to the Dingle area on my next trip. I don't feel like I had nearly enough time to take in all the beauty and see all there was to see.

We sailed downhill into Annascaul where we spent the night at a nice B&B and hit up the South Pole Inn. Annascaul is where Tom Crean lived. He was the well-known Irish Antarctic explorer written about in Endurance. And The South Pole Inn is full of images and memorabilia of various expeditions to Antarctica.

Tomorrow we're off to the Cork area...


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