torrie's travels

WHERE WILL I GO NEXT?

Fare Thee Well October 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 5:18 pm

Today was spent in the car for the vast majority of the time. We literally drove from one side of the country to the other. And we learned that our GPS likes to take backroads instead of the motorway, much to my chagrin! We left Lisdoonvarna and didn’t stop until Navan, which was 20 minutes from our destination, just north of Dublin. We saw a McDonald’s and decided that we hadn’t had fast food this whole trip, so why not?!?!

Then we made our way to Newgrange, which is a Neolithic passage tomb in the Boyne Valley (called the Bru na Boinne). I have wanted to go to this area (as well as the Hill of Tara, but we ended up missing that today) since I first came to Ireland in 2012. I was actually set to do a tour of it on my 39th birthday, but I may or may not have overindulged the night before and didn’t really feel up to it!

It was amazing. First, the countryside is just beautiful (what’s new?). But the passage tomb is enormous. It was built 5000 years ago! That is older than both the pyramids and Stonehenge. It is just absolutely mind-blowing that people built that thing 5000 years ago. They brought big rocks from 15kms away, which they decided would have taken 80 people 4 days to move ONE stone. And those large stones encircle the tomb. And that’s not to mention the granite stones that were 30-some kms away and the quartz that was 80 kms away!

Inside is even more awe-inspiring. The architecture is incredible. To stand inside something that hasn’t been touched in 5000 years is unbelievable. Inside the chamber the walls and passageway have been reinforced, but the main chamber ceiling and capstone haven’t been touched. So amazing. The unique thing about this tomb is that at sunrise on the Winter Solstice, the sun shines through a “roof box” or basically a transom window, above the main entrance. For 17 minutes as the sun is rising, it perfectly lines up with the passage and the chamber. This was a major spiritual ritual for the people who built it. Two other passage tombs in the area (Knowth and Dowth) have similar qualities.

As we stood inside the chamber, the tour guide turned off the lights and turned on a demonstration of what it looks like on Winter Solstice. It gave me goosebumps! It’s hard to wrap my brain around early Iron Age people being able to create a structure like that and have it so perfectly aligned with sunrise on a specific day (well, 6 days, actually…3 before and 2 after). You can put your name in a lottery to be inside on Winter Solstice to see it happen live. Last year there were 30,000 entries!

The passage tomb was surprisingly not used for very long, considering they think it had to have taken at least 50 years to build…when life expectancies was 25 years. They think it was used for only a short-ish period of time. I thought our tour guide said 100-200 years, but for sure it was in disrepair and decay 1000 years after it was built. It eroded and rocks fell off, which allowed it to actually remain largely intact. It sat, buried, for nearly 3500 years, until the 1690’s when the landowner tried to unearth all of the rocks to build a road. When he located the main entrance, he stopped and the site was opened up. But he just opened it for anyone at anytime, which is how it sat for 200 years. So there is graffiti inside (carved into the stone) and no one knows what may have been removed. The Irish government then took it over about 100 years ago, but the main excavation occurred in the 1960-70’s. It Is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

After Newgrange we made our way back to Dublin and to our hotel near the airport. After relaxing for a bit we went to a nearby Italian restaurant (where I had the pizza, which was a mere step up from frozen pizza…). After that we needed to get gas and candy. Bringing candy home is sort of a tradition. So I knew there was a Tesco about a mile away and we made our way to it. We couldn’t find it, because it was, apparently, in a mall that was closed. Wah Wah. So we got gas and I made a new friend! I went in to pay and he asked me how I was. I said good, but then said, actually I’m sad. He asked why I was sad and I told him because I have to go home tomorrow. He said, so you liked it here, then? I said, yes this was my third trip. He said, “Jaysus, you really do love it here!” He informed me that Ireland is the world’s third smallest country! I told him we had been here for 10 days and he said that wasn’t enough, but that he wouldn’t be able to get anywhere in America in 10 days! (Hence the third smallest country.) As I left he said, well, maybe I will see you again someday!

We decided to try our hand at Lidl, which was an epic fail. No candy AND no Bulmer’s. So I got blackcurrant jam and breakfast for tomorrow. Then we went back to the gas station to see if they haed candy and/or Bulmer’s. They had candy and my new friend told me where there was an open Tesco that would sell Bulmer’s. He also informed me that my Magner’s in the states is made from different products and not the Irish products. Interesting! Through our convo a guy was waiting to checkout and he happened to be a guy who was in line ahead of me at Lidl. We actually walked into the gas station at the same time and I go, “fancy meeting you here!” He laughed.

I was purchasing many small Diary Milk bars in various flavors for gifts and both my employee-friend and a customer in line behind me commented that I hadn’t gotten the mint Dairy Milk. I said I had never had it and they both highly recommended it. So I threw one in in the pile, saying that the Fruit and Nut are my favorite. The other customer said I might change my mind! She then started talking to Jaime about other candy!

We then made our way, or attempted to make our way, to the Tesco that my new friend told me about. Let’s just say we were a bit punchy and we kept missing turns, bear rights, and roundabouts. And yes, I say “we” because my navigator was as confused and laughing so hard she was crying half the time! It didn’t help matters that a Garda (police) came up behind me with its lights on. There was a bus lane to my left and one lane going my direction….the lane I was in. So I immediately pulled over and stopped to the right. But the Garda did the same thing. Pulled behind me. What? Then it honked and I realized I had pulled over to the wrong side of the road. In Ireland, I should’ve pulled over to the left. But there was another lane there. Whatever. He could’ve also gone around me to my left, but he didn’t want to do that. He turned its sirens on then. Dude, sirens won’t help. I thought I was pulling over correctly!

We finally found Tesco and as we went upstairs in this gigantic mall, it appeared to be closed. Um, what? My friend said it was open until 1am. There was a Tesco extra that had its gates down and that’s what we thought was closed. Then I saw a gentleman nearby and I asked him was it closed? He said, I hope not, I have to go there, too. And he was surprised to see the gate down. So I said, Tesco extra…is that something different than Tesco? I really oughta know better by now than to ask Irish people something like that. His response? “Yes, it’s extra!” We later saw him in the store and were like, we made it! He goes, we have to stop running into each other like this!

I found my suitcase Bulmer’s (it all goes in my suitcase and all of my shoes go into my carryon). Speaking of shoes, there were wine-colored ballet flats that I could not resist. Even though they technically didn’t have my size. I went a size up. BFD. I have recently purchased some wine/burgundy items and so I had to have those shoes! Anyway, I intended to get the Pear, Berry, and Strawberry Lime Bulmer’s, but saw that there was also a Cloudy Lemon and they were 4 for 10 euro. Done.

We made it back to the hotel in one piece and did some repacking. Now it’s time to sleep. I’m glad we stayed busy tonight because I haven’t even cried yet. Which would be a first! (Also, taking applications for travel partners for Ireland 2018…St. Patrick’s Day!)

 

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Green and Blue October 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:44 pm

That was what Loren and I called Ireland in 2012.  We lucked out with the weather on that trip, so Ireland was just very green and blue.  Well, we’re getting even better weather this year, if that’s even possible!  So Ireland is, once again, green and blue.  It’s like it thinks it still has to tempt me.  There’s no need for that…I already want to live here!

Today was a day I had been looking forward to all trip. Our excursion to the Aran Islands…namely Inis Mor. I have been to Inis Mor once before, but Loren and I had left from Galway to get there. That required a 45-minute coach bus ride followed by a ferry ride that I believe was about 30 minutes. Well, we aren’t going to Galway this trip, so we decided to stay in the Burren last night and tonight and leave from Doolin, the only other place that ferries leave the main island for the Arans.

Online research told us that the trip would be 75-90 mins. That seemed long to me, but whatever. We bought our tickets and we reached a stop after 45 minutes. From what I could see out the window, it looked like it could be Inis Mor. Nope. It was Inis Oirr (not to be confused with Inis Meain or Inis Mor). So we stayed on until the next stop, which was at the 75-minute mark. Nope again. Inis Meain. It took nearly 2 hours to get to Inis Mor. I was not pleased. Not to mention because the ferry was kind of old and very cold.

We rented our bikes straightaway and I was excited to take the CORRECT bike path this year. The last time Loren and I missed the turn (it is now marked better!) and the route we ended up taking was brutal. It was very difficult and it took FOREVER. We found the better route back, so I knew where to take it this year. It was a 4-mile bike one way and then you hike up quite the hill to Dun Aengus, a prehistorical fort. The signage says it’s one of Europe’s finest! It seemed a little different this time, as one passageway seemed to have been blocked off. But I made it around to the iconic ledge photo area. You lay on the edge of the very tall cliff and take your picture. It didn’t matter that I was right next to a cliff with a drop-off that could kill me, I loved laying there and nearly fell asleep. Being near that kind of water really is my happy place!

We then walked and biked back, enjoying the scenery and animals along the way. On the way there we played with a horse and two donkeys and on the way back we played with a cow and another, much more extroverted horse! We didn’t have a lot of time (thanks ferry), so we missed lunch and went straight to the Aran Sweater Market. I may or may not have gone overboard. Good thing they ship!

Tracey and I then got water and chips from the Spar (which is new to the island since 2012) and then waited for Jaime to finish shopping. We returned our bikes and waited for the ferry. I had hoped that they would have picked up at the other islands on their way to get us, you know to give us all roughly the same amount of time on the islands. No such luck. Another absolutely freezing 2-hour tour.

We were all frozen stiff by the time we got to the car, good thing for heat! We stopped at what I thought looked like a cute little pub there in Doolin and it was toasty warm when we walked in. Perfect! I had the chicken burger, which was delicious. Tracey and Jaime had the seafood curry, which they thought was pretty amazing, too. We’ve really had great luck with food on this trip. Almost everything has been so tasty.

We then came back to the room to relax and read our books. We were exhausted from our 8-mile bike ride and at least 3-mile walk! Tell me again why my pants are getting tight on this trip?

Tomorrow is the last actual day of the trip. This makes me very sad. I always get pretty emotional on my last evening. So I hope I can hold it together! I just find such a sense of peace everywhere I go in this country! I never want to leave!

 

The Most Beautiful Place in the World October 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 3:26 pm

Today we got an early start, considering we had a somewhat late night. But we had a lot of ground to cover. As we left Dingle we took the scenic route off of the peninsula in order to go through Conor Pass, which is in the Mt. Brandon range. It is the highest paved pass in Ireland. It was beautiful. I had never seen it before, so I was glad to experience it. The drive up and out was a little scary…I think it was even worse than the Ring of Kerry in some places!

We then made it to Tarbert with ease and boarded the ferry. We chose to cross the bay by ferry instead of driving all the way up to Limerick and back down. It was pretty slick. Then we quickly made our way to Kilkee and drove the Loop Head Drive. This was another 25 kms of gorgeous scenery. There were some cliffs that my travel book said could rival the Cliffs of Moher (they don’t, but they were still amazing!). It was a really beautiful drive and we had the most perfect weather for it. Mid-60’s and no wind. It was lovely!

We had lunch in Kilkee at a pub called Hickie’s. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, but I shouldn’t doubt these pubs anymore because we always have amazing food. I had one of the best Chicken Caesar salads I’ve ever had. Tracey and Jaime had stuffed chicken and they said it was really good, too.

Then we finished the final leg of the day, up to the Cliffs of Moher. This was the second time I had been there, but it still took my breath away. I don’t know what it is, but it is the most majestic view I’ve ever seen. I mean, the whole coast of Ireland (the Wild Atlantic Way) is awe-inspiring, but the Cliffs are just spectacular.

We then toyed with staying in Doolin or Lisdoonvarna. Doolin is where we will be catching the Aran Island ferry from tomorrow. But as my travel guide says, “there’s no there there.” And there wasn’t. So we checked it out, but decided to move on to Lisdoonvarna, which is slightly bigger. Or, well, would have been had half the town not closed already. It’s still the last weekend of the Matchmaking Festival, called “The Outing” because it’s the gay weekend, but apparently lots of places are closed. We tried five places before finally finding a room at the sixth. I was starting to get nervous and flashbacks to 2012 in Dingle! Thankfully the sweetest ladies had a triple room for us and it’s perfect!

We’re pretty tuckered out, so we are having another laid back evening to recharge. Tomorrow we tackle Inis Mor! I loved the island in 2012, so I’m looking forward to going back! And biking the RIGHT path this time!

 

My Favorite Place on Earth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 3:11 pm

I cannot express how much I love the Dingle peninsula. It’s just not possible. At almost every stop along the way I exclaimed, I could stay here forever! Seriously, if I had an insulated and heated tent, that would do!

The last (and only) time I drove the peninsula was December 2014. I didn’t realize then that there were several attractions closed. We stopped at Dunbeg, which was a prehistoric fort. The stone fortress that remains there now was built in the 1200’s, but forts in that spot date back to the BC years. There was an interesting video that we were able to watch as well.

As we moved along, we stopped for the Beehive huts, which were similar ringed fortresses and ones I had seen before. The drive along the coastline is just breathtaking. It’s hard to believe places so beautiful exist! We stopped at Clogher Head, which was a stop I made last time and where I ate lunch. But I was unable to go all the way down to the beach before. It was a stunning beach, so I was glad to see that we were able to go down directly to the water. There were wonderful waterfalls and rock formations. It’s just so peaceful!

We then motored along, stopping to take scenic photos at various places until we arrived at Louis Mulcahy’s pottery shop. I had seen it before and later learned that he’s a pretty well-known dude with some nice pottery. So I made two small purchases there!

After the scenic drive we stopped in Dingle to eat at Murphy’s Pub. That was a happening place! And they collect police patches, so Tracey was able to put a St. Cloud patch up. We shopped around and walked through the streets of town. It was a gorgeous day and I even found the house I want to buy there! 3 bedrooms for only 180,000 euro!

After shopping we had some downtime and we all took naps. It was nice to have been able to sleep in a bit that day and then have a relaxed day of sightseeing followed by a nap! After our rest we drove into town and tried to go have a nice seafood dinner at a place called Out of the Blue, which only opens everyday if there was a good catch that day. Unfortunately, it’s apparently so popular that you need a reservation, which we did not have. Boo. So we walked around more and went to another seafood place that was highly rated in my travel guide. We were again asked if we had a reservation, but they were able to accommodate us. And that was great because the meal was delicious! I literally ordered the last lobster (which was amazing), Jaime got the seafood pasta special of the day, and Tracey got a crab sampler. We also splurged for dessert and I had the Chocolate Temptation. Holy cow. It was a LOT of chocolate. A very rich brownie, chocolate ice cream, and liquid chocolate (think thinner than mousse or pudding). I could not finish it all and one of the servers said she didn’t blame me because she’s tried several times and failed!

It was then time for my favorite thing: pub crawl in Dingle! We started out at Dick Mack’s, which is a really cool pub. It’s set up like a house with the various rooms, but both times I’ve been there it has been packed, hot, and loud. So we sat outside with our half-pints. Then we moved on to Foxy John’s, which has the esteemed reputation of being a Hardware store by day and a pub by night. It was also where Loren and I met some fellows in 2012 and ended up going with them to a wedding reception. Fun memories. This was a nice stop as well. Not as obnoxious as DMs. From there it was to the Dingle Pub, where I had never been. It was a nice environment, good music, and good people watching! The manager at the restaurant where we had dinner had told us that Michael Fassbender and his girlfriend, Alicia Vikander, were in town and drinking at the Courthouse Pub. But we got there after midnight, so we missed them! (We knew Fassbender was in the area because he is from Killarney and received some big award there that day…though the restaurant manager seemed to think it was prematurely given because Fassbender has yet to win an Oscar!)

As we made our way to the Courthouse Pub, we saw a bouncer at a nearby pub and started talking to him. He was Lithuanian and has been in Dingle for 12 years. He was a tiler (like in construction), but has gotten away from that and is working the pubs more often. He tried to give me all sorts of advice and tips about how I could move there and work for cash illegally. Because you know, that sounds like a good idea!

All-in-all, it was a great trip to Dingle! I just love it there so much. It was kind of sad because I won’t be back there for at least 4 years and maybe longer (at least the way my plans are laid out now).

 

A Little Old, A Little New October 7, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 3:40 pm

Showing new people around the country, that’s a good title for this trip and today was no exception. We had a tasty breakfast in Kenmare (one of the things I love about staying in small places out in the countryside…accommodations generally come with breakfast!) before setting off for part of the Ring of Kerry. We saw Moll’s Gap (I missed that the last time), Ladies’ View, Torc Waterfall (I didn’t have time to see this before), and the Muckross Estate (I have been here before as well, but it’s just beautiful). I especially loved our time at the Muckross Estate, as it was a gorgeous day and we walked a couple miles throughout the estate. It was nice to get out and walk around! We were going to tour the house, but then we found out it was an hour-long guided tour and none of us were really up for it.

So we got back in the car and finished our Ring of Kerry trip in Killarney. (We didn’t do the main portion of the Ring of Kerry because we’re going to do Dingle, which I am partial to.) I stopped in Killarney on my way to Dingle from Cobh in December 2014 and it was DEAD. It was about 11:30am on a Sunday and there was nary a person. Most of the stores and all of the restaurants (save Burger King) were closed. So I didn’t have great things to say about it. Until today. We stopped in town to eat at a pub and decided to extend our hour-long parking and walk around. I’m so glad I did because it was the cutest little town! It was packed full of people, there was way more to it than I saw last time, and we had a really enjoyable afternoon. The highlight of Killarney was going into a candy store. Tracey and Jaime went before me (and apparently told the proprietor that I have been to Ireland before, would move here if I could, but I couldn’t work…to which he responded that I could work illegally…then he found out I am an attorney and he suggested I take all of the schooling here in Ireland!) and they were finding all sorts of cute candy. The moment I walked in, Tracey was holding up a Willy Wonka candy bar and the proprietor goes, it’s made by Willy right upstairs, and he slid this fake shelving unit and showed a staircase with Willy Wonka! So funny! He let us try some of the candy and told us all about how the candy is made locally and how his grandfather had had a candy shop 30 years ago. He was a lovely gentleman and it was a pleasure to meet and talk to him!

Then we made our way to Dingle. My favorite! We’re staying at the “nice” hotel in town and I’m glad to be back in a season where things are open. I was bummed to find much of the town closed in December 2014, but things are hopping now! We had an amazing dinner at the Dingle Bay Hotel. One of the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had! So delish! I even got dessert…apple and berry crumble. It was an awesome, laid back meal. Now we’re resting before taking on the Dingle peninsula tomorrow. I may or may not blog again because Jaime and Tracey might have to come back without me. There are several places on this peninsula that I would like to never leave!

 

Majestic! October 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 6:08 pm

We started the morning by finding the local Starbucks (who initially tried to pass off half of a cup of foam as my chai latte. Nice try, Starbucks). Then we went to Reginald’s Tower, which is the oldest civic building in the whole of Ireland. It started as a Viking fort (Regnall built it, hence the name Reginald) and the Vikings built up the area around it, known as the Viking Triangle. It was a wooden structure then, but later inhabitants made it into a taller stone fortress in the 1100s. It was interesting to get sort of a favorable history of the Vikings in Ireland, as the only things I have heard so far were generally negative. I also learned that Waterford was a very strong city and actually repelled that joker Cromwell. Once. Unfortunately it was not successful twice. Also, Waterford is the Anglicized version of the Viking name, which makes it the only town in Ireland that has retained its Scandinavian name!

I finally have a place in Ireland that rivals the Cliffs of Moher as the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen on earth. It was hell getting to it. The driving today was a lot more difficult than yesterday due to the roads. I felt much more comfortable with the manual, but today the roads became the quintessential tiny Irish lanes. I may have clipped a few side mirrors, bushes, and driven slightly off the pavement once. And I was generally traveling 10-30 mph UNDER the speed limit! Crikey!

But I have two words for you after the driving ordeal: WORTH IT. We were traveling to Mizen Head on this treacherous (what, too dramatic?) journey and at one point we were sure the road would never end. Mizen Head is the most southwesterly point in Ireland and used to have a lighthouse and a signal station. There is a footbridge connecting the cliffs to the signal station. The views were majestic. There is just no other word for it. I got chills in many locations (and not just because it was also literally the windiest place I’ve ever been…the wind seriously was blowing us around as we tried to stand firmly in one place for pictures and it even blew Jaime’s hair tie out of her hair!).

I did not want to leave. I think it is just going to get harder and harder for me to leave every trip! But I could’ve sat out there and just marveled at God’s creation forever. I just feel incredibly content here and I adore the tumultuous and fierce scenery. The wind whipping, the sound deafening, the waves crashing, and the rocks jutting. It was magnificent. And I could sit there forever. We will be seeing another place next week that is supposed to rival the Cliffs of Moher, but after today, I will have to see it to believe it!

We then made our way to Kenmare, an adorable little town that is a common jumping off point for the Ring of Kerry and where Loren and I stayed in 2012. I love this little town, even though it wasn’t as hopping tonight on a Thursday in October as it was on a Friday in September! We got an amazing room for 35 euro per person (including breakfast). We had a tasty dinner and then went out to two pubs to listen to music. It was much quieter here than the last time I was here, but it was just as lovely. The music in the last pub we went to was incredible. I know I’ve said it before, but one of the only words I can use to describe myself when I am here is content.

Tomorrow we tackle Killarney National Park!

 

It Was Bound to Happen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 5:47 pm

Yes, I have finally driven a manual transmission in Ireland. It was bound to happen. In 2012, Loren and I tried and I did a terrible job. So we quickly returned it and got an automatic (for not too much more money). Last time, I was all ready to drive a manual but when I got to the airport, they gave me an automatic with no additional charge. When we went to get our car on this trip, they wanted to charge me 60 euro a day extra for an automatic. Nope. It was definitely difficult to get used to. It takes me less time each trip to get used to driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the street, but getting used to driving a 6-speed with your left hand? Much more difficult. There is so much more to focus on! But eventually I got used to it…sort of.

We drove to Dun Laoghaire first because I’ve wanted to see the cute little seaside town where Bono lives. It’s essentially a suburb of Dublin. We had lunch in a burger place on the water and moved on. It was definitely cute! We made it to Waterford just in time to join a House of Waterford Crystal factory tour. It was fascinating! I didn’t think a crystal tour would be so interesting. But I loved it! And then I purchased things in the gift shop. I got a crystal shamrock paperweight for my new office.

We found our hotel and relaxed for a bit before heading out for dinner. We decided to walk to an Italian place and it was very difficult to find, but we got a nice walk in! The food was incredible! I had penne and tomato sauce and it was so tasty! Everyone loved their food. It was the cutest little café that was highly recommended in my travel guide.

We then had an early night. I was tired and felt like I was starting to get a cold, so I wanted to get as much sleep as possible for the lengthy car ride the next day! Waterford was a beautiful little town!