Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ireland: Dublin, Kilkenny, Cashel and arrival in Blarney

Good morning, Ireland!

Ok, so the fire alarm in the middle of the night wasn't great. I was pretty tired when I took the shuttle bus from the Travel Lodge back to the Dublin Airport in the morning to pick up my rental car, but I wasn't in a hurry because I wasn't due to pick up the car until after 12.

I had a "full Irish breakfast" at the airport and then went to get the car a little early. Turns out that the car I booked with my prepaid Mastercard wasn't able to be paid for with that card, so I walked next door and got a car from a different company. No biggie. I ended up getting an upgrade to a Nissan Juke (which makes me think of Kriss who used to drive one). It's a manual transmission, black, diesel with a great stereo.

At some point (possibly when having my Irish breakfast), I booked a hotel in Kilkenny. Quick side note here: I never would have gone to Kilkenny if it wasn't for my hosts in Copenhagen who have a travel blog of their own.

So, in the car and off to Kilkenny

About an hour and a half later after driving in a heavy rain, I reached my hotel and was so exhausted that I made the executive decision to do a quick tour of the city, pick up supplies (water, fruit, lunch) and go back to the hotel, close the blinds and only leave for a fast food dinner, which was basically in the parking lot of the hotel. I needed (and took) a day off.

The next day, the sun was shining. I was well rested and ready to explore. 

These Irish towns love their colorful buildings

Isn't this just the most charming town you've ever seen

Kilkenny Castle
A garden behind Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle
Cute shop name!
This massive mural is hidden behind a wall with peaky holes in it. There are "wanted" signs
for Alice Kyteler on the wall, the first person in Ireland to be accused of and killed for witchcraft. 

Having finished my fun morning tour of Kilkenny, I hopped in the car and set the GPS for Cashel. I'd read about it, too, on my friends' blog and thought I'd give it a look. But first, I pulled over to chat to some cows. It started off where they were all spread out in a field, but once I got talking..

They got interested!

I have to say that meeting up with friends in France, Italy and Denmark was just the best. I would not have lasted as long on my travels if I hadn't had time with friends. Being alone does get lonely. But it also has some advantages, like sleeping all day or stopping to randomly say hi to cows. =)

Cashel is another super cute town. It's almost a little Stepford. EVERYONE is super nice and helpful and they keep the place clean. The Rock of Cashel is where I was heading. I showed up, bought a ticket and was told that a tour had just started (see, my travel ju ju IS back). I joined the tour and walked around Cormac's Chapel.

Have a read about the Sarcophagus and Cormac's Chapel here.

Local kids used to play in the ruins, when the roof started
 to collapse, it was removed for safety

Irish  Cross in the foreground, Hore Abbey in the background.
This is where Queen Elizabeth II visited on her first trip to Ireland.

A chunk of the roof that blew off in a great wind storm!

The colors are naturally made (From plants and animal blood)
The Cross of Cashel - 1200's
And then I had lunch and wandered around the town. 

After my delicious Irish lunch of roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, chicken battered and baked and vegetables steamed to death (all smothered in gravy), I got back in the car and drove through Limerick county to Blarney. 

I'm staying at an adorable B&B within walking distance of the town and Blarney Castle (which I will explore tomorrow morning). Tonight, I had dinner at The Square Table restaurant. It was INCREDIBLE. And the people behind me were raving about their food too. Highly recommend. And on the walk home in a beautiful sun shower, I took this panorama. Everything here is so green. I didn't want to overwhelm you with 48,000 pictures of grass. So, here are two pictures.

Copenhagen to Ireland (Alternative Title: 4in4)

Prepare for the mother of all blog entries. I'm feeling a two-parter coming on!

I had set a goal for myself to reach 4 countries in 4 days and with that last hiccup, I wasn't sure I'd make it. Deciding to come to Ireland, booking the flight, hotel and rental car helped settle me down, but as the flight got closer, the more I had to wait.

The evening of May 7th - I had booked an Aer Lingus flight from Copenhagen to Dublin Ireland at 10pm. The flight I booked was the only Aer Lingus flight on the departures board (I mean, who knew this was a real airline anyway). There were probably 40 or 50 other departures scheduled with numbers next to them for which baggage claim area to check-in and drop off bags. The Aer Lingus flight had no number for a very long time. I distracted myself by updating the blog, pacing a lot and eventually having dinner from a well-stocked 7-11. I had a mozzarella sandwich with tomato and pesto on brown bread. It was delicious. (The Oreos weren't bad either)

Finally, the baggage desk number popped up. I checked my bags and was through security in no more than 6 minutes. On the other side of security was Customs. The guy said, "Dublin?" in a high pitched, happy voice and then, "Are you going there for residence?" I responded, "No. I live in the US. Or Australia. I do both." He stamped my passport (YES! Another stamp!) and I proceeded into the largest mall you could ever imagine existing. Seriously, there were clothing stores and dishware, fine foods with fresh meats and cheeses, more clothes, was nuts. Every so often there was a gate. It was like a dream where you're shopping and then go to enter a store, but end up on a plane. 

I found the next style of departure board for my gate number. Same thing. No gate. I waited until nearly boarding time (9:30pm) for the gate number to show up. My gate was a through the mall and through a portal into another world. A less posh world. A world where the poor people fly. The gate was closed.

At first, I was the only one waiting outside the gate, but shortly more and more passengers showed up. I was sitting on the ground, waiting for an employee to open the gate, so I could charge my phone and a potential passenger started talking to me. 

You know that kind of person who will tell you more than you want to know because they just can't help themselves. This guy was that type of guy. I had my headphones in and he just kept talking. "I missed my Ryan Air flight yesterday. I could see people boarding and they wouldn't let me on." He was not making me feel good about the cheap side of this airport. "So, I had to book this flight because I missed a dentist appointment," Really. Come on. "Usually I fly Norwegian." Miraculously, a woman came and opened the gate. I sprinted away from this man (I shit you not) to the Aer Lingus woman who checked my boarding pass and let me into the seating area, where I quickly scouted, then snagged the only electrical outlet in the joint.

By this time, it was 10:20pm. We hadn't boarded and I was beginning to worry about the 4in4 goal. But in no time at all, boarding began and we shuffled our way onto my very first green plane.

The seats were an ok width. The leg room was a joke. I am 5'4" (or at least that's what I tell people) and I had about 2" before my knees would be digging into the back of the poor bloke in front of me. These 6 foot plus men on the flight were either hanging into the aisles or folding up into themselves. 

Listen, I'm not complaining, because I am a small woman. I fit fine. I'm just saying, if you're big....avoid.

Once we were into the air, flight attendants came around offering food and drink (for a fee - again, I'm not complaining...just saying). I got a ginger ale and a water (to take to my hotel room later, figuring I'd get in late and not be able to find a bottle in the middle of the night). 

After a 2 hour flight and a 1 hour time change, we landed before midnight! Huzzah! I did it! On a green plane no less! 4 Countries in 4 Days! Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland. New personal best. I felt at that moment that my travelling ju ju came back to me and I was all smiles (you can even see it in this incredibly blurry picture).

The Irish Customs agent was gruff and the ONLY Irish person I've met so far who isn't just the sweetest most wonderful person ever. He said, "How long are you staying?", "Five or six days" and then he said, "Why?"

I was flustered for a second and reminded of a question asked by Amadeus in Cinque Terra. He asked Kate what her name was. She (obviously) responded, "Kate" and he said, "Why?" and followed up with, "For what reason?" We were both so thrown by this questioning, our expressions were priceless confoundment (might not be a word, but really). "It's a very Italian question," said Amadeus.

And so after making my confounded face, I said to the Irish Customs agent, "I'm just travelling around" and then I got another stamp in my passport. Yippy!

I'm going to wrap this part of the story up with a quick summary. Taxi. Travel Lodge Airport South. Friendly staff. 1am sleep. 2am fire alarm. 2:10am fire alarm. 3am fire alarm. 8am wake up. 

To be continued...(but not in a bad way, things have been great in Ireland)