torrie's travels


Reflections December 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 7:58 pm

So I had intended this post to be put up much sooner than this, but the life of “being home” took over!  It took at least four days to fully recover from the jet lag.  I think having a bad cold didn’t help any.  It wasn’t until almost a week that I was sleeping through the night and not getting up with massive coughing fits.  Today was my first day back at court and I am exhausted!  But it was great to be there and I am happy to be home!

So here are the answers to the most popular questions I have gotten since returning home:

Favorite place: probably Spain…not only was it the first country that I felt like I could actually communicate in, it was also just really my style.  Sleeping late, siestas, and sangria.  The S’s!

Least favorite place: either Vienna or Mykonos.  Mykonos may only have ranked so low due to the season, but I definitely preferred Santorini to Mykonos.  And Vienna, well, read the blog post.  It was just really frustrating, difficult to navigate, and not filled with overly friendly/helpful people.

Must go back: Italy.  I have said I will most likely also return to Spain, but that’s because I just really enjoyed it.  Italy is a MUST.  I could’ve spent a month there and did not get to see everything in that large country that I wanted!  Although I think I will have to go in summer, or at least not November.  Rainy season, indeed.

Most challenging: Morocco, without a doubt.  I think that was probably one of the most challenging days of my life.  And I was, and still am, so proud of myself for making it through it.  And not just “making it through”, but having a great time in the souk, meeting some colorful characters, and meeting people who live in such a different world than I do, but with whom I was able to make a connection!

As many people know, the vast majority of my accommodations were booked in advance.  I hadn’t booked Switzerland because Catherine and I wanted to play that by ear, Mykonos because I wanted to use a free hotels (dot) com night, and Ireland because that’s how I did it before.  I knew that locked me in to an itinerary, which wasn’t my original plan.  But it worked great.  The only time I regretted that was when I got to Koblenz, Germany and found out the river cruise I wanted to take the next day only ran on the weekends.  Which meant I was going to Cologne the next day for no real reason.  I wished I could’ve just went straight to Berlin, but because it was the day before, I couldn’t cancel my reservation (almost all of my accommodations were flexible, but required more than one day’s notice to cancel or change).  Not too bad for a 90 day trip!

Homesickness.  I really only felt homesick on my birthday.  Truly.  It took me some time to figure out what that feeling was (there were many factors that day, so it took a bit to realize what it was), because I really hadn’t felt homesick before.  I had a strong urge to want to fly home the next day instead of leaving Dublin and going out into the Irish countryside.  It was a bizarre feeling, especially because I was in Ireland, but it quickly passed!

It’s a little weird that I don’t feel like this trip has still fully hit me yet.  I have thousands more photos to edit (sorry, no Christmas cards this year…I’m shooting for New Years!), and I think that will make it more real.  And I plan to reread these blog posts in the new year.  I think there is so much I have forgotten (I’m realizing that with the photos) and I couldn’t spend a lot of time reflecting on each cool, iconic thing I did or saw because I had to move on to the next cool, iconic thing the next day.  So I plan to spend more time reflecting on this amazing opportunity in 2015.

But I will say that it’s pretty freaking incredible that just over 2 years ago I had never been out of the USA (aside from a Caribbean cruise, but that doesn’t really count!) and now I have been to 15 countries and 3 continents.  Pretty amazing. I am truly blessed.

Next up? Japan 2015!!


Relaxation and Pampering December 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 1:08 pm

Today is my last day. Holy cow. It has gone by so fast! I decided for these last three nights I was going to spoil myself and get a nice hotel and then spend today relaxing and getting ready to come home. So that’s what I did! Unfortunately, even at fancy hotels, fires break out. At 4:30am. Apparently.

Even though I am in one of the most comfortable beds of the trip, I haven’t slept well the last two nights. I think it’s everything running through my mind about what I have to do when I get home. But I finally fell asleep around 3:30am last night, only to be woken by the most obnoxious sound ever. It sounded like it was coming from my phone or tablet, which were on the bedside table. But I couldn’t figure out how to make them quiet, so I almost sat on the tablet, thinking I was going to wake up the entire hotel. Then it stopped. It was bizarre. I was so freaked out. So I went back to bed and started thinking maybe it was the phone, which was supposed to be on the bedside table, but I set it on the floor. Maybe it was a wake-up call that was sent to the wrong room. I didn’t know and right as I was about to fall back asleep, it started again. Yup, fire alarm. A fire broke out in the kitchen and so the hotel was evacuated. As we all got downstairs the night receptionist told us the fire was contained or something, but there was a lot of smoke. So we had to wait until the firemen gave the all clear.

I finally fell back asleep around 5:30am, only to get up at 9am to start my relaxation day. Wait, that doesn’t sound right! The spa in the hotel was booked up today, so I had to take the appts where they had them, which meant my full-body massage at 10:30am. And that meant if I wanted to use the Thermal Suite, I had to get there before my appt. I used the “Vitality Pool”, which was warm and had three areas of jets. One was a stand-up thing, where you had a half-circle “railing” and the jets came out behind and under you. But that was cold water. Then there were “swan heads”, which basically looked like ginormous kitchen faucets, but I didn’t need a shower. So I hung out on the third one. These were essentially reclining “chairs” of metal rods that had jets coming out. After that I laid on the “Tepidariums” or something. Tiled, ergonomic beds that heat up. That was nice. Then I went to the relaxation room until my therapist called me.

I hadn’t realized it was going to be a full-body massage, I thought it was just a personalized one where I told her what to focus on. I do not like massages because I carry all of my stress in my neck and shoulders and there are so many knots it’s painful to touch. But after carrying 50lbs on my back for 90 days, it was necessary. I told her ahead of time that it was going to be painful. Holy cow. I was screaming silent screams, it was so bad. And tensing up the rest of my body. So painful. I also asked her to focus on my poor feet. With all of the walking I did on this trip, my feet have been bruised and battered. In addition to all of the blisters and calluses, I got a stress fracture on the top of one foot, which radiated pain into the arch of my foot and in the mornings (or to a lesser degree just after sitting down for lunch or a break) it was incredibly painful to stand up or walk. I would immediately endure shooting pains in my feet and would need to walk around awhile before the pain went away and I could walk normally. So they needed some TLC as well! My therapist had the understatement of the day when she was finished: “You were right, you have a fair bit of tension in your shoulders.” Ha!

After the massage, I had a break between sessions when I ordered a chicken Caesar salad and DC from room service. I was supposed to take a hot, hot bath (therapists’ orders), but I needed to eat lunch, seeing as though I hadn’t had breakfast, before my pedicure. I have never had a pedicure before. I will paint my own toenails, but I do not like other people touching my feet. Gross. But they needed it. And it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. She sanded down my feet (that sounds wrong, sanded?, but I don’t know how else to say it), and I’m not kidding. With all of the blisters and calluses, she had her work cut out for her. But they are so much better now! She even pumiced my toes. And now I have a lovely plum color on them. They are definitely happier!

I was planning on not leaving the hotel today, but was running out of cough drops and needed some DC and cider. (I usually get sick right at the beginning of a trip, but that didn’t happen this time. I guess it’s right at the end. Could be worse.) There was a Tesco like 1km away, so I thought, no biggie. The traffic was horrendous and the stoplight situations here are stupid. So it took an hour to go there and back. But then I got back and took that hot, hot bath and when I was done I ordered pizza and popped in Love/Hate Season 5. I chose this hotel over other fancy hotels because it advertised DVD players! I am obsessed with this Irish show and the final season just ended over here, so I got the DVD when I was in Dublin last week. (Their DVDs come out immediately, like the day after the season finale…that would be nice.) So I started watching, ate some pizza, drank some cider, and I’m getting back to it after I post this. I will be getting up early to drive to Dublin, drop off the car, and get on the plane. Crazy!


Final Day as a Tourist December 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 7:02 pm

I started by trying to sleep in. Which I thought I could do, considering I couldn’t sleep last night. Nope. After 8 hours, I was up. I really hope this isn’t a new trend! So I went down and availed myself of the free breakfast. It was ok. The omelet was pretty good, and I got fruit, but the rest was so-so. V pulpy OJ, which I am not a fan of!

Then I got ready and set out for Kylemore Abbey, which is another thing I had wanted to do the last time, but it was too far from Galway for us to swing it. It is really an iconic sight, which if you googled it and looked at images, you might recognize it. Unfortunately I chose the month that they were doing spring planting in the walled Victorian Gardens, so it was closed. That meant that admission was cheaper, but there was a lot less to see. I saw the Abbey, which was only about 4 rooms (I thought there would be more open) and the Gothic Cathedral. (I could’ve went to the mausoleum, but chose not to.)

The Abbey was initially a castle, built by Mitchell Henry, for his wife in 1867. Apparently they were very in love and had something like 9 children. They went on vacation and she died in 1874. It’s very sad. After her death, Mitchell had the Gothic Cathedral built as a cathedral-in-miniature. It is quite small, but I loved it. Especially with the Christmas decorations.

The Castle was eventually bought by the Benedictine Nuns and was turned into an Abbey. They even ran a school there for many years. Both a day and a boarding school, which eventually had to close in 2010. The Abbey sits tucked into a rock façade and faces a lake. It is quite gorgeous. I wish I had been there in summer, but it had its own appeal in winter. The whole Connemara area was absolutely stunning (seriously, I need a thesaurus!). My GPS is whack and had me take some crazy way to get there. The Abbey sits on the road I took all the way from Galway, but it had me turn off into some vast field. But field doesn’t even begin to describe this. It was a barely paved road and there was a house maybe every mile. Maybe. But lots of loose sheepies. One ran in front of my car to cross the road, so I am glad I was going slow enough so as not to hit it! It was so gorgeous, I wish I had gotten out to take photos. But I was so intent on getting back on a real road, that I didn’t. But I drove very slow (conditions required), so I was able to take it all in. I definitely want to go to Connemara National Park next time, too (I think I was close when I was in this area).

After the Abbey I came back to Galway, but finally was able to eat at SuperMac’s! It’s just a fast food place, but Loren and I saw it everywhere and we never had a chance to eat it. I just wanted to try it, so I could say I’ve had Irish fast food! (it’s even been mentioned in some of the Irish chick-lit I read!) The chicken sandwich I had was actually quite good! Poor kid working the register, I think I had him say “do you want curry or garlic” about 12 times before I understood what he was saying. But more to the point, no. Why would I? I noticed that these have been linked with Papa John’s, which always gives garlic sauce with pizza, right? I don’t know, I don’t eat Papa John’s.

I made it back to my hotel and it was time for the big dress rehearsal for the final pack. I had contemplated getting a few other things that would have to go in my backpack, so I wanted to try it tonight to see how everything was fitting. Thankfully everything fits great (considering I am leaving almost all my tops, tanks, and socks here…in the garbage), I just hope it’s underweight. But I don’t think I can fit anything else, so I’m glad I gave it a shot before buying other things!

After the pack, I got ready and was going to take a taxi into the city center. It’s been just miserable weather off and on (but mostly on) here. The weather service actually upped its warning from yellow to orange today due to flooding and gale-force winds. They weren’t kidding. And they’re calling it a “Winter Bomb.” We have a polar vortex, they have a winter bomb. It really didn’t seem as bad as they were predicting, at least not in Galway or up to Kylemore. But the rain is persistent, so I didn’t want to walk the 1.5kms or so into the city center. So I asked the concierge how much a taxi costs and he said about 10 euro. You have got to be kidding me. For 1.5kms? Pass. Guess I’m driving. I didn’t want to drive in case I had too many, but I had to just limit myself!

I found a parking ramp not too far from the pedestrian mall area, which is where most of the pubs are located. I very quickly found Taaffes Bar, which my friend Scott told me to go to. The sign outside said “bar food until 10:30.” Sweet. No, they were finished serving food for the day. Ah yes, now I remember. Loren and I had a heck of a time getting dinner in Ireland, but Galway specifically. One place did the same thing: said it was open and then decided to close early. So strange. So I walked in the rain to try to find somewhere, but the mall area was desolate. Thankfully I didn’t have to go far before I found a place and it was even serving Shepherd’s Pie, which is what I wanted for dinner tonight (before I even knew about the Winter Bomb, but even better!).

After dinner, I went to Quay’s Bar, which was a favorite of mine and Loren’s. Apparently, the one in Dublin is owned by the same people, so I guess I could’ve went there instead of waiting for Galway! Unfortunately I was early for music, so I just had a pint of cider and moved on. I went back to Taaffes, in hopes of their music starting soon (it was around 9 and the sign said 9:30). Before the music started a large group of youths came in. I would call them “obnoxious youths”, but that’s probably redundant. They continued once the music started and I even shared a “look” and an eyeroll with one of the musicians over this crew. Thankfully they left soon after.

Then a group just decided to sit with me. Which is fine, I had a large-ish table, but perhaps ask first? I think it was a tour because the girl who sat down right next to me was from Australia and she said there were Aussies, Kiwis, and a Canuck. OK, she didn’t call them that. I don’t know which was the Canuck, I tried to guess. Soon they were all dancing anyway. It was a good night, but they didn’t play Galway Girl. Much to my disappointment. Much.

But they did play Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.” And I’m not gonna lie, I got a little verklempt. How fitting for my last night out and about on this trip. I have had the time of my life. Absolutely. Toward the end they played Stand by Me. And a drunk Irish girl who was sitting on a stool next to the booth I was in, reached down and put her arm around me and her head to my head so we could sing. Um, ok. And then she clasped our free hands during the chorus. But the best was when she asked me where I was from and I said United States. She threw her arms up into the air and “woo hoo’d”, yelling, “I love Americans!” Well, then. That was a nice response. Her name is Deidre, “but I’m Irish, so everyone just calls me Dee.” And I asked if she was from Galway, but she is not. She’s from Leitrim. And then she decided that she worked for Leitrim’s tourism board and started begging me to go there. “It will change your mind. It will ABSOLUTELY change your mind!” Not sure what she thinks my current frame of mind is… Then she asked if I would take a photo of her group, when one of the other girls apologized for her, saying “she’s really drunk.” Ha! I took a couple photos and as I gave her her camera back, she goes, “Now one of us!” There’s a photo of me in some random Irish girl’s camera.

And that’s a great way to end my last night out in Ireland! Tomorrow is all MEEEE day!!


Wild Atlantic Way December 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 3:28 pm

Dingle Peninsula.  The most beautiful place on earth. And that’s not me talking. That’s how National Geographic described it. Though I can’t say I disagree. Especially after driving the whole of it today. But first, I started out at the local SuperValu. One of the first proper grocery stores I’ve seen on this trip! I didn’t know what there would be in the form of lunch out on the peninsula during winter, so I wanted to bring snacks with me. I got some breakfast, crackers and Laughing Cow cheese, Pringles, and DC.

Then I set off for the Slea Head Drive. This is the scenic tour of the peninsula that starts and ends in Dingle Town. Thankfully it’s well-marked with signs, so I had no problems getting around. And thankfully it’s December, so there was very little traffic. I mean, little. I could probably count on both hands how many vehicles I saw in front, behind, or opposite me during the entire 3 ½ hour trip! It was glorious!

Dingle is what is called a Gaeltacht, which means it is a traditional, Irish-speaking area. In Dingle Town, much to my dismay, most people speak English. But once you leave town, all the signs (except for ones for the Slea Head Drive and Dingle) are only in Irish. I loved it! If only I had been to Irish class since the end of June (though I listened to the Irish language radio station for a good bit of time yesterday and could at least pick out words!). I wanted to at least say hello to someone in Irish, but I forgot on the one chance I had. Then I was going to say goodbye in Irish, but he was gone when I left. Boo! But the people out there were great. I didn’t talk to them, but everyone I passed on the road who was walking, running, whatever all waved at me.

So one of Ireland’s tourism things is the Wild Atlantic Way. It extends the entire Atlantic coast of Ireland, which includes the Dingle Peninsula. All I can say is, Wild Atlantic Way, indeed! The ocean was really crashing today. It was so beautiful!! I don’t know really how to put it into words for you. I took loads of pictures, though I know none of them will capture the beauty, vastness, and harshness of the waves, the cliffs, the rocky shores. It was incredible. Granted, I am a water person, so I was mesmerized most of the day. But it was just incredible.

I had great weather for most of the day. By which I mean, not raining. But at some points it was so windy I was both being choked by my scarf and in danger of my scarf flying off of me, as well as my scarf and sweater getting caught on barbed-wire fences! I was nearly blown over several times. But it was great because I would drive, find a spot to pull off, get out, take photos, and get back in my warm car! Then I would drive 50 feet to another spot to pull off and repeat! It was nice to have all day to do this. No rush, no hurry. I encountered two or three short bursts of rain, but nothing big. And I saw another rainbow today. Ireland is full of rainbows for me on this trip!

So the first site that I stopped to see were the Beehive Huts (well, that’s not true, I saw a sign for a Prehistoric Fort, but the path appeared to be closed and the only thing that paid attention to me was one sheepie. He strode right over to me when I got out of the car. It was cute!). I was confused and it took me a minute to decide whether I would venture to them because it just appeared to be someone’s house. But I saw the signs and a gate was open, so I walked up there, when I saw a man sitting in a little booth and a sign that said it was 3 euro. That’s when I should’ve said, Dia Dhuit! But he beat me to it, saying hello and asking if it was cold outside. It didn’t even occur to me until I was walking uphill to the huts that I should’ve attempted to speak Irish. Ah well. The Beehive Huts were constructed in approximately 1200AD by early Christian farmers. There are several still roughly intact. They are fascinating because they are so small! I don’t know how each one served as a house for a family. This area of huts is called Cathair na gConchuireach (with fadas, but my keyboard doesn’t do fadas…accent marks), or Caher Conor.

I moved on and for a long time just stopped for the scenic view. The Blasket Islands were in great view, as I had such good weather. Great Blasket Island really is great. It’s huge! It used to be inhabited, but in the 1950s it was evacuated because the government could not ensure the safety of the residents. Due to extreme weather conditions, the residents were often cut off from the mainland, meaning food and supplies were scarce. Some famous Irish language writers were from Great Blasket Island. During the summer months you can take a ferry to the island to check it out, but I don’t think you can do that in the winter.

As I kept moving on I kept seeing something even more stunning (or just as). You just can’t make this up. I was reminded of the last time I was in Ireland and deciding that I wanted to live here. Loren asked me where I would want to live and I replied Dublin. Because, let’s be honest, I would need a big city. But I told her (or at least thought) that I would want to live in Dingle, but it was just too small and too far from “civilization.” I had the same thoughts today, except the idea that, well, maybe I could make it out there. Doing what for a job? I’ve no idea. I don’t know what these people do for work, besides farm and raise sheep and cattle (oh, I saw the cutest cows today!). But there were surprisingly very nice and modern homes along the way. That surprised me. I expected all old farmhouses.

Anyway, I came to a large beach area (though I was up above it), and I think it might be called Clogher Strand, from google images. But I’m not positive. It was absolutely amazing! Tall, black cliffs, smooth brown sand, and fierce, blue waves. It was glorious! I ate some lunch there in the car listening to Sinead O’Connor on the radio. Apparently she has a new CD out. Who knew?

At this point I was making my back up the western side of the peninsula. More gorgeous views of the water, but soon I started moving inland. The next site I stopped at was one I had wanted to see the last time I was here. The Gallarus Oratory. This is an early Christian church, estimated from the 6th-9th centuries, but some believe perhaps as last as the 12th century. It is a stone structure, much like the Beehive Huts, and again is very small for a church. But I suppose there weren’t tons of congregants back then!

After this, I hit Brandon Creek and Mount Brandon. Mount Brandon is the highest peak on the peninsula and the ninth highest peak on the island. It is named for Saint Brendan who set out on a voyage to the “Isle of the Blessed”. It is said that in preparation for his journey, he spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Brandon and then departed from the area that is now Brandon Creek (or so I read on a sign by the creek…though I didn’t read the whole thing because it was raining at the time time). This area was cool, as it stopped raining when I drove a (very) little big further). The creek is small, but feeds straight into the Atlantic, which comes crashing up into a cave, of sorts. There is a pier there with a sign saying stay off during high tide and windy days. Thankfully it wasn’t as windy at this point, so I went on it!

I drove up the road toward Mount Brandon, but didn’t want to keep going, as I didn’t know how far it would take me and I didn’t want to run out of gas! So when I saw sheep in the road, I decided that was a good spot to take a few photos and turn around. Again, the sheep were very interested in me. A couple stood there staring at me. (If anyone know this, I would really like to know why sheep have spray paint on them…usually pink and blue. As I type this, I now wonder if it means boy and girl. Which is weird. Why do they need to be marked? And why are some flocks all blue? But back to my point…doesn’t the spray paint ruin the wool? If they are used for wool, which hello, it’s Ireland, why do they want to put color on them? Anyone?)

I made my way back to Dingle and relaxed at the hotel for awhile. I kept putting my book down saying I should go walk around, but I’ve been there done that. And in winter there’s not much to see in Dingle Town. I can’t go out on a ferry boat and see dolphins or look for Fungi the Dolphin. Lots of stores are closed. So I forced myself to just chill and I took another nap, but only about 20 minutes. I set out for dinner, wanting to go somewhere else, but I drove through town again and couldn’t find anywhere else that looked like it might have food. So back to the Marina Inn. Surprisingly, it was duller than last night. No live music, only a handful of local couples eating dinner. It was nice to just be there with the locals, but I could’ve done with a bit of entertainment. Oh well.

As I leave Dingle tomorrow, I am heading to the last stop on this journey. Kind of hard to wrap my head around!eaHead


Southern Ireland December 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:51 pm

I had the worst sleep ever last night. The party happening in the hotel bar I told you about yesterday? Got out. of. hand. It was SO loud. Both the music and the horribly rude and disrespectful party-goers. I could barely fall asleep after 11pm, but I managed, only to be woken at 12:20am. People were yelling, laughing, and running around in front of my room. It was so ridiculous. And once they left, the music and other people left in the bar clearly kept going.   I never heard or felt (due to the noise getting quieter) the staff telling them to quiet down or anything on behalf of the hotel guests. I mentioned it as I left this morning, but they’re getting bad a review for it. It was so incredibly over the top.

After I left Cobh this morning, I set out for Dingle, with a stop in Killarney. When Loren and I were here 2 years ago, we stayed at Kenmare instead of Killarney as our jumping off point for the Ring of Kerry. Killarney was smaller than I thought, and while it was all decked out for Christmas, almost everything was still closed. Some shops were open, but most restaurants were closed until dinner. A few appeared to open at noon, I was there at 11:30am, but weren’t what I was looking for. I found something, but quickly moved on.

The drive to Dingle was amazing. Once I hit the Dingle Peninsula, I was reminded why I loved this place. The scenery was just incredible. I saw a beautiful and vibrant rainbow to my right (even though it was sunny where I was) and the color was amazing. Even the purple was super bright. There was no one behind me, so I stopped to take photos! As I kept going, the cliffs, the ocean, and everything was just breathtaking. I took advantage of the pull-offs so I could take photos. It was so incredible. Even just around the bend was another beautiful vista. And then I came to the gorgeous rolling green hills. I almost forgot just how wonderful this area is!

I pulled into town and because my GPS was set just for the town of Dingle and not my hotel, I went the wrong way. But I knew immediately where I was and where I needed to go to get to my hotel. I know Dingle is super small, but it’s amazing how quickly it all comes back. I checked into my room and set out to walk around the town. There’s not much to it, but I went into some shops and saw some really cute clothes and sweaters. But I got my Aran sweater last time, so I had to resist!

I returned to my hotel to read and nap. I didn’t know I was going to nap, but I realized I was exhausted. I slept almost an hour and a half! Then I got ready to go out to dinner. I asked at my hotel if certain pubs would be serving dinner on Sunday night and she gave me one suggestion, but it wasn’t in the area of town I wanted, so I asked about something else. She gave me a suggestion for Main Street, so I made my way there. They stopped serving food at 6pm. Basically the opposite of Cobh! They suggested the place the chick at my hotel first suggested! So I just went. I was going to drop my car off, but then decided to just keep driving.

I had some fish and chips and three pints. And I spent the evening listening to the awesome live music. But the highlight of the night was a little kid, probably 4 years old, who got up and started “Irish dancing” with the music. He was basically running in place with some front kicks and hands on his hips. It was pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

But now it’s time to head out. This pub was great, but it’s definitely closing down early on a Sunday evening!


Driving… December 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:27 pm

I got up and got ready to leave Dublin. As much as I had longed for lengthy stays throughout my trip, I think having two 5-day stays wasn’t that great. Because I didn’t want to leave. I had settled into a place and the thought of packing up again was tiresome. But it’s also the end of my trip, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.

I had some anxiety over the car. I don’t know why. It’s true I haven’t driven in 3 months.  That’s super weird. But I’ve driven here before and I made it out alive. But we had an automatic last time and I was going to have a manual this time. I wasn’t able to drive the manual last time (which baffled me), so even though I have since driven a 6-speed (I hadn’t previously driven one when I tried to drive one here in 2012), I was still nervous. More nervous than I think I should’ve been or could really explain. Bizarre.

I got on the airport bus and went to pay my 6 euro for the ticket and only had a 50 euro note. The driver didn’t have enough change and was going to short-change me 3 euro. I said fine, because what else was I going to say? (I asked if we could wait for others to get on and get change from them, but he said he was getting off because they were changing drivers. So I said, can’t you tell the next driver? He said no because the money gets off with him.)   I sat down and realized before we got to the next stop that I had one euro coin. So if I gave him the one euro coin he gave me, plus my one euro coin, he could give me a 5 euro note and we would be even. I approached the front of the bus to ask him and he was really angry, yelling at me that “I told you when you got on, I was clear when you got on!” Rude. If he had said, politely, the money is all locked up (or whatever), I would’ve understood. But he was a jackass. Another bus worker, I think, heard the conversation (and me saying, loudly, thanks for being helpful!), and came back where I was putting my bag down and gave me the change out of his pocket. I said no, it was fine (thinking he was the next bus driver…because I swear he was the driver when I took the bus into town on Monday, but he wasn’t the next driver today), but he insisted. Who does that? So nice!

I got to the airport and went to the car rental counter. As the guy was pulling up my reservation he looked at it for awhile and then said, “can you drive an automatic?” I was kind of surprised because, really, who says no to that? And I was thrilled that he was giving me an automatic for the same price as the manual. So I readily said yes. The guy working next to him laughed and said, “you’re offending her with those questions. She’s going to take your arm off!” I guess I responded a little too readily! He gave me my drivers license back and wished me a happy birthday! So sweet! I got my GPS and he gave me the keys. I was surprised that I didn’t have to take the shuttle bus to the lot like we did last time. The car was waiting in the parking garage. As I was leaving he again wished me a happy birthday, as did the guy next to him.

I got in the car, super pumped that it was an automatic and tried to fire up the GPS. It wouldn’t find my hotel in Cobh, so I just did the city. But it kept searching the satellites, so eventually I pulled out and was going to get on the M50 myself and hope it caught up. Then I realized that wasn’t the best plan, so I stopped for an early lunch and the GPS worked great. I only missed one direction and made it just fine. It was motorways mostly the whole way, so that was a piece of cake. Once I remembered that slow cars here stay to the left and not the right! Once I turned off at Cork to head east to Cobh, the roads got more windy and narrow. I was thankful I had the full insurance (had to buy theirs because I have none at home right now), so if I scraped a wall or something, it was no worry. He literally said to me, you don’t have to worry about scratches or dents. Score!

I couldn’t find my hotel, as it still wasn’t pulling up on my GPS, so I stopped in at the tourist office and a very kind lady took me outside to point the direction/turns I needed to take. And she gave me a map. I found it easily from that point. My room is great. Quite large. Kind of said to only be here one night.

After bringing my bags in, I set out for the Cobn Heritage Center. You may be wondering about the name. It’s pronounced Cove. Which is what the name was until Queen Victoria arrived in 1849 and the name changed to Queenstown. It remained Queenstown until just before the Easter Rising, when it changed back to its original name, but with its Irish spelling.

Cobh is “famous” for being a port of call for lots of ships. All kinds of ships docked here throughout the years, starting with the famine emigration on the coffin ships, all the way up to tourist ships in the 1960’s. The vast majority of the emigrants during the potato famine left on any ship they could from Cobh. Between the years 1848-1950, more than 6 million people emigrated from Ireland and about 2.5 million of them from Cobh.

Cobh is also famous for the being the last port of call of the Titanic. The Titanic was built in Ireland (I was able to see the Titanic museum in 2012, the 100 year anniversary…the museum was erected on the spot where the ship was built in Belfast) and from England, it sailed to Cobh. It left Cobh on April 11, 1912 and sunk 3 days later. Additionally, the Lusitania was sunk right in front of Cobh during WWI. Cobh citizens rescued as many people as possible and housed and nursed them anywhere they could, including hotels and private homes. Finally, beginning in 1791 Irish convicts who were sentenced to “transportation” were sent on ships from Cobh to Australia.

I thought that the museum also had a replica of a famine ship that was available for tour. But I didn’t see it anywhere. I was bummed, but that might be just a summertime thing. Or maybe they just don’t do it anymore. I’m not sure. So after the museum I walked around town. It is very colorful and very pretty. I wish the weather had been better. Although it was about 50 degrees, it was overcast and did a little sprinkling now and then.

I was looking for dinner around 5 because I had only eaten once today…at 11am. I went to one place, the Titanic Bar and Grill, but I wasn’t impressed with their menu, so I moved on. I decided on a pub called the Rob Roy. They didn’t serve food. They recommended I try the Titanic for pub food (even though I didn’t see that on the menu). So I went back and then saw a sign that they weren’t serving food again until 6pm. Sigh. So I decided to go to The Quays Bar and Grill. I asked if they served food and he said they did…starting at 6pm. Seriously, do people not get hungry early here? I had gotten some fruit at the store, so I decided to go back to my room and hang out until food was being served.

Then I decided to walk down to The Quays. I debated this because, although it wasn’t far away at all, it was down a massive hill. And I didn’t want to walk back up. But it was silly to drive and if I was going to have two pints, I wouldn’t want to drive. I ended up not having two pints, but still. The place was cozy but I wasn’t crazy about the menu. I made do, because I was starving!

I came back to my hotel and went to the hotel bar. It was set up for a party, but they said they always serve hotel guests. So I found one table not reserved and it was right by the fireplace. It was perfect. I drank a Bulmers and read. And then the “live music” started…which was a DJ playing mostly terrible music very loudly. And then the women streamed in. So loud. So I finished my pint and returned to my room!

Looking forward to Dingle tomorrow! Drive should only be about 2.5 hours, but we’ll see. It will take me through Killarney, which I am looking forward to because I missed Killarney last time. I think that will be a good lunch stop!


Birthday (Eve and Day) December 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 5:33 pm
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Yesterday, on my birthday eve, I slept in, though barely. Heidi and I had been out pretty late and I drank a fair amount, so I thought I’d sleep later. But I lounged around before getting ready for the day. Then I went to Starbucks for breakfast before going to Dublin Castle.

Dublin Castle intrigued me because it was the location of English rule in Ireland for 700 years. And it was the site where the English handed over rule of Ireland to Michael Collins in 1922. Michael Collins was late for the ceremony and the last Viceroy to be in power in Dublin said to him: “you are seven minutes late,” and Michael Collins responded, “we’ve been waiting over 700 years, you can have the extra seven minutes.”

My plan was to take a quick tour of the courtyard and the state apartments, but when I went in to get my ticket, they said a guided tour was starting in 5 minutes. Which was free with admission. So I waited for the tour and I’m glad I did. We first went to an outer building to see where one of the towers of the original castle that the English built in 1234 was. It was the powder castle, so it held gun powder. And it went up in flames during a fire in the castle. The tower came down and ended up getting buried. It wasn’t found until 1986. There was also part of the old city wall in this building. And part of the other river that flows under the castle into the Liffey. I can’t remember its name.

Then we went into the state apartments and got to see some really cool rooms. I loved that it was all decorated for Christmas. Lots of trees and I took pictures of all of them! There was some info on the Easter Rising (as Joseph Connelly was nursed there after the Rising but before his execution at Kilmainham…while he was tied to a chair because his leg was so infected he couldn’t stand…so they tied him to a chair and placed him in front of the firing squad).

I learned about Queen Victoria’s visit when it was still under English reign and the current Queen’s visit in 2011. The Presidents of Ireland are inaugurated there and I learned that their Presidents are elected to 7-year terms. I didn’t remember knowing that before.

After Dublin Castle, I went to a burger joint for lunch. I saw it as I walked past going to the castle. I realized I was craving a burger! I had actually been craving McDonald’s breakfast and fountain pop (after a night where I drank five and a half pints, that sounded marvelous), but I dilly-dallied too long and breakfast wasn’t being served by the time I got ready. So a burger seemed to tame that craving. It was a great lunch and a good deal. I learned later, from James, that it’s one of the best burger places in Dublin. Score!

After that I did some shopping (finished all of the gifts) and then hung out in my room for a bit before going back out shopping for a duffle bag. I will be working some packing miracles in my backpack before flying home next week and in order to do so, I needed a proper carry on. Thankfully I found one for only 15 euro. And I found a new-ish mall. The chick at my hostel directed me to Henry Street, which she said was a shopping street. I remembered Loren and I going to a mall in that vicinity, though maybe a little further away, so that I could get a hair straightener, but I never knew about this street. And the stores and the mall appeared new. But I don’t know if it was. There was a TK Maxx inside, so I went in. I thought I could find a bag there for cheaper.   I didn’t, but I found sunglasses! And a store called “bag city,” which is where I got my bag!

Then I returned to my room to get ready to meet James. Loren and I met James randomly at a pub when we were here 2 years ago. We’ve kept in touch and we were able to schedule a night to hang out. We met at a bar called the Grand Central, which is a favorite of James’. It was a lot of fun! Lots of catching up to do and he educated me on some of the politics of Ireland. Firstly by telling me the proper pronunciation of the parties. The only one I knew was Sinn Fein, the others I was horribly off on! It was fun to talk about Irish current events with someone who lives here, because I just read about it in the Irish paper every day. It was good to get his perspective on some of the issues.

Because James frequents this place, the staff know him. One manager in particular joined our conversation at times. He looked like he was about 12, which I said to James. James said he was turning 13 today! And when James told Christopher that, Christopher responded, without missing a beat, “I’m making my first communion, too!” They bantered back and forth several times and I loved it. I could probably listen to that all day long. So funny. Though you wouldn’t think that an Irish accent is hard to understand, considering we’re both speaking English. But it is! And it’s not because Americans have ruined the English language, as James tried to argue! Even if I can’t always understand it, I love to listen to it!

We had so much fun over the course of the evening, we shut the place down. I think we each had 5 pints, but thankfully we also had dinner! I was worried about today, because that was two nights in a row of heavy drinking and I am certainly not used to that! James walked me home and we decided he would join me for my birthday breakfast at Bewley’s, which I had been looking forward to for months and months!

I was supposed to go on a tour of the Boyne Valley today (being picked up at 10:15). I didn’t get a chance to see Newgrange and the Hill of Tara the last time I was here and it was a priority this time. So James and I decided to meet shortly before 9am. Until I woke up at 7:45-8:00am. And felt like crap. I tried to push through and get ready anyway, but then messaged James saying, I’m going to skip the tour, let’s push breakfast back. But due to miscommunications, we just pushed ahead with the regular plans, only slightly later.

We had a great breakfast of scones and tea (I was happy to realize that the tea tasted the same as the Bewley’s tea I buy at home!). I also ordered a toasted bagel, thinking it was sort of a breakfast sandwich. I was again, unsurprisingly, craving McDonald’s breakfast! But it was a just a bagel with tomato and melted cheese. I just ate the tomatoes and cheese! We sat and talked for awhile and looked out over the activity on Grafton Street. And James gave me Starburst! It was the best! I had told him the night before that I couldn’t find Starburst at the stores I had looked at and I wanted them because they have different flavors. So he got them for me! (Of course he said they were in the first shop he went into on his way home the night before, but whatever! HA!)

It was so great to have seen him again, but I needed a nap and he needed to clean his house. So we said goodbye and I crashed. I didn’t actually sleep for that long. Not more than 30 minutes, but I stayed in bed for awhile, which helped. Then I got up and got some lunch and got some candy bars to bring home. I was going to read then, but it was such a beautiful, sunny day in Dublin, I didn’t want to totally waste it. So I walked down to St. Stephen’s Green and walked through park and sat on the bench for awhile. It was lovely, though it got chilly just sitting there!

After that, I decided to have this week’s viewing of Love Actually before getting ready to go out. Now it’s my birthday, so I felt the pressure to go out and have fun. But for some reason, I wasn’t really that into it. But I made myself go and got some bar recommendations from James. It was 8:00pm, but I needed something to eat first and the pubs I went into were in full Friday-night-swing. So I got food elsewhere and then attempted the pubs again. But it was very overwhelming. Each place I tried was packed to the gills with people. I even went back to Temple Bar, which is fun but touristy. That was even worse. I couldn’t even get into the places, let alone make my way to the bar. Not exactly what I was looking for. And this evening I had the first pangs of homesickness, so I decided to throw in the towel. Wednesday and my birthday eve were enough fun for one week! I crawled in bed with chocolate and a book. It was lovely! All in all, a fabulous birthday week in Dublin! Looking forward to get back out into the countryside, though not relearning how to drive over here. Fingers crossed!