Europe Trip 2016 || Day 17: Kylemore Abbey

It was a sad morning, waking up and knowing that today was our last full day in Ireland. We woke up and had breakfast with some people from South Dakota before heading out to make our way back to Dublin. We drove for a while in Connemara which was beautiful. Along the way we stopped at Kylemore Abbey where we took lots of pictures. We went to the gift shop and got some little gifts and of course, an Irish coffee. Since we had to pay to get onto the grounds, we just walked as far as we could (without having to pay) took some photos, appreciated the beauty of Kylemore Abbey and then headed back around to get in the car. We drove for the rest of the day until we got to Dublin. We made a few stops along the way which was fun, saw a few herds of sheep strutting down the road, and in true road trip fashion, sang at the top of our lungs the whole time.

When we got to the hotel Mom and Amy went to drop off the car while Marguerite and I printed out our boarding passes for our flight the next morning. When Mom and Amy got back we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was good, and for dessert, Marguerite finally got to have her crème brûlée. When we were all full to the brim, we went back to our room and had a relaxing night before leaving for the Netherlands. After nearly two and a half weeks of continuous travel we were finally going to see the family. We knew that countless days of sitting in our Oma’s garden, riding our bikes through town, and morning tea with the family was awaiting us. So with those thoughts in our heads, we went to bed.

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Europe Trip 2016 || Day 16: Cliffs of Moher and Spiddal, Ireland

*Just a little disclaimer, this was one of my favorite (if not my favorite) day of our trip. The Cliffs of Moher had been on my bucket list for a while, and it was like a dream come true.*

And on the 16th day of our Europe adventure, my wonderful sister turned 21. This morning we woke up in our castle of a B&B and had breakfast with a nice couple who was also staying there. After breakfast, we went back up to the room and Marguerite got some of her 21st birthday presents. After the festivities were over, we packed up all of our stuff and started to load up the car. Mom had not booked a B&B for the next night yet so the lady of the house kindly called a place and booked it for us. Then we got a quick picture in front of the B&B and then headed into the town of Ennis.

We walked around Ennis for a bit, just to see what it had in store. It was cute and very small, but nothing spectacular. We were really trying to wait out the weather, hoping for it to get a bit sunnier. When the clouds had begun to clear, we got on the road and headed to the Cliffs of Moher.

I was extremely excited to go there and could not wait to see the cliffs. Marguerite was a bit nervous because she was worried one of us might fall, but when we got there it was not so bad. We walked along the fenced in part of the cliffs up to O’Brien’s Tower. We climbed to the top of the tower to see the view from the top. On our way back down, Marguerite found two wedding bands attached to a small note, tucked into the wall of the tower. She showed all of us, but did not read the note (although now we regret not reading it because we want to figure out what it was for). We then walked in the other direction where we could climb over a small wall and get closer to the edge of the cliffs to look over. We took lots and lots of pictures. This was probably one of my happiest moments of the trip.

When we had taken all the pictures, we got back in the car and headed towards Spiddal. We took a little break in the town of Burren to have lunch and then got back on the road. We finally made it to Spiddal and got all set up in the B&B. Mary, the lady of the house, was so sweet and welcoming. She was very talkative and so excited that it was Marguerite’s birthday. After a failed attempt at finding crème brûlée for Marguerite’s birthday dessert, she made a reservation for us at a restaurant in town.

We took a walk near the water before we got to the restaurant and looked at an old church (there is no shortage of these in Ireland). Then we went to dinner which was delicious. When we were finished we went to another bar and all four of us took a baby Guinness shot (not really my favorite). Then there were two guys in the bar (a few beers past drunk) that kept talking to Marguerite. One of them decided to come sit with us and talk (Gaelic was his first language so his English perfect, but pretty good considering). His friend/brother/partner (all three relationships were thrown around, but I’m pretty sure they were just friends) came over and sat with us as well. He kept saying he was going to marry Marguerite. They were a hoot. The old men in the bar were singing old country music and Amy was singing along with them. One of them came over and gave Marguerite a kiss on the cheek. Mom managed to get the manager to give Marguerite one of the Guinness beer glasses so he came over to give her a hug as well. Then we left the crazy Gaelic Irishmen, and went to the other bar down the road. This one was much quieter, only three girls (one of them was our waitress from dinner). We took another baby Guinness shot before deciding to call it a night. When we got back to the B&B we fell straight to sleep.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 15: Bunratty, Limerick, Ennis

We woke up early, had a light(er) breakfast, packed up the car, and said our goodbyes to the O’Sullivans. We all piled into the car and headed to Limerick. We first drove to Glenstal Abbey and visited Marco (an old camper) who gave us a miniature tour of his castle of a school. Glenstal Abbey was absolutely gorgeous. We then took Marco into Bunratty to see the Bunratty castle. We had lunch at Durty Nellies Pub, which is the oldest pub in Ireland (almost 400 years old!). We then walked across the street to the Bunratty Castle and took a tour of the castle, which was interesting. After we had been all throughout the castle we started walking around the grounds. The area around the castle was set up with several different little shacks to display how the people used to live. Sadly, the grounds were being closed down so we did not get to see much of the insides of the houses. We did manage to get into a few of the houses and the blacksmiths house. Then we decided to walk around the grounds a bit more, even though we couldn’t go inside any of the houses. We saw the little animals and the gardens and just talked with Marco.

When we had seen enough of the grounds, we left and went into the city of Limerick and walked around for a bit. After walking around for about an hour, we drove back to Glenstal Abbey where we dropped Marco off. We said our goodbyes and took a quick polaroid picture and then headed off to our next destination. That night we were staying in Ennis where in a B&B that looked almost like a castle. It was quite beautiful. We got there pretty late but walked into town looking for a place to get a bite for dinner. Unfortunately the super market was closed, and all of the restaurants were closed as well so we just walked back and had a few snacks for dinner and some Baileys. Then we all went to bed.

Durty Nelly’s Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 14: Ring of Kerry and Night Kayaking

We woke up to another lovely Irish breakfast made by the O’Sullivan’s (at this point, I think we were all exhausted by the Irish breakfasts). After a quick tour of their greenhouse we all got into the cars and headed for the Ring of Kerry. We had to separate into two different cars so Amy and I went with John, and Marguerite and Mom went with Kate. We stopped lots of times to take pictures (I probably took about 500 pictures this day). The roads were crazy narrow and what I would consider a one-way road was used for two cars (granted, sometimes we had to drive off the side of the road to get past someone). It was absolutely beautiful though. We got to see the coast and the “mountains” and it was such a lovely day as well. We stopped at a nice restaurant for a Bailey’s coffee and we saw a group of sheep being herded down a small road. We kept driving and stopping, driving and stopping, until John got us kind of lost. We managed to find our way onto some crazy back roads that I am pretty sure were meant for cattle but saw some pretty sights in the meantime. We stopped at a little hiker’s lodge on the side of the road for a quick bite and talked to some drunk hikers (and by we talked, I mean that mom talked). After some sandwiches and soup, we kept driving and saw lots of sheep. At one point we met a car coming the other way and since the road was too narrow and there were rocky cliffs on either side the car had to back up so much to let us through. Finally we made it back to the O’Sullivan’s house (it took 9 hours for the whole Ring of Kerry) and had a very quick dinner before suiting up for night kayaking.

I rode with Kate and Mom on the way to Lough Hyne (a marine lake which is incredibly biodiverse and has many people studying it). John lead the way and got us a bit lost again, but he found it eventually. We got to Lough Hyne just in time to go on the tour. We geared up our waterproof jackets and pants. While we were waiting to start kayaking tons of little gnats (called midgets by the O’Sullivans) kept flying in our faces so we were all running around like crazy trying to avoid them. When everyone was suited up the guide gave us a little lesson on proper kayaking techniques before we hit the water. Mom and I shared a kayak, Amy and Marguerite were in another, and Kate and John shared one as well. It was a really fun night. The tour guide told us old stories and jokes which was great. There was a full moon which made kayaking easier, but it also made seeing the bioluminescence a bit harder. We dipped our hands it the water and shook around trying to see them, but I only saw a few. We finally finished the tour at midnight and got into the cars. When we got back, Marguerite and I went straight to bed while Amy, Mom, Kate, and John stayed up talking until the late night hours.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 13: Blarney Castle and Bantry, Ireland

On day 13 of our trip we woke up bright and early at the B&B and had a tasty breakfast made by our lovely hosts. We packed up all of our stuff and drove to the other side of the bay where we got out and looked at an old church in Abbeyside and took pictures of the boats out in the bay. Then we hopped back into the car and drove to Blarney where we went to the Blarney Castle. Unfortunately, Ireland’s famous soggy weather joined us at the Blarney Castle and it was the first day of our trip that the sunshine decided not to follow us. But we hadn’t come all this was to miss out on kissing the Blarney Stone. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. We walked to the castle, climbed up a set of insanely small and steep spiral stairs and made it to the top rim of the castle. From the top you could see all of the grounds and even on a cloudy day, it was quite beautiful.

After waiting for our turn, we each one by one layer down on the floor of the castle wall, leaded our head back way farther than I thought we would have to, and kissed the bottom of a stone that has been kissed by millions of people (including Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jared Haibon of the Bachelorette). It was definitely an experience but Marguerite was pretty grossed out by how unsanitary it was. Once we had all kissed the stone, we made our way back down another set of insanely small and steep stairs and walked around in the gardens. We also saw the poison garden which was filled with poisonous plants from all around the world. The gardens were beautiful and filled with azaleas of every color, that were a beautiful contrast against the gray and foggy sky.

When all of the pictures had been taken, we got back in the car and started heading towards the O’Sullivan’s in Bantry (a former counselor, Donagh’s parents). Boy was that a journey. Before we started too much of our journey, we made a quick stop for coffee and some carrot cake as well as getting a few gifts for the O’Sullivans. When we got back onto the road we managed to find our way into quite a traffic jam. Not in the sense of like rush hour in a large city, but more in the sense of a truck getting stuck and blocking the narrow Irish roads. We were first stuck in traffic for about 30 minutes and then an older lady told us to follow her where she took us on a back road. After driving on that road for a few minutes, we figured out that the back road was also blocked because a HUGE truck was stuck there. So we turned back around, asked the older lady for another way to try and followed that to try to get out of all the traffic. After driving on a few way-too-narrow back roads, we finally managed to find our way into Bantry.

John O’Sullivan met us in downtown Bantry and lead us to their house where we met Dierdre (Donagh’s sister) and Kate (the mother) who had made us a lovely Irish dinner. Then we had rhubarb cobbler and tiramisu for dessert which were both delicious. After being full to the brim, we went into their living room and chatted for a while after deciding that it was too wet outside to go for a walk. When we all started practically falling asleep on the couches, we went upstairs to our rooms. Deirdre very kindly let us sleep in her room, while Amy slept in the guest room. Despite the long car adventure and the gray skies it was a pretty exciting day for us all.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 12: Waterford, Ireland

After waking up we went downstairs and had our first traditional Irish breakfast. It was interesting and consisted of a fried egg, sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms, bacon (not traditional American bacon though, more like cooked ham), sausage, and black and white pudding (which was strange to say the least). The black and white pudding are truly Irish and like small patties of mush. The black pudding was made with pig’s blood and is supposedly super good for you. I tried it, but wasn’t really a fan. After breakfast we packed up and headed towards Waterford. The road trip had begun.

When we arrived in Waterford our first stop was the Waterford Crystal factory. We went on a tour and got to see how it was all made. It was very similar to glass blowing, but the crystal is much stronger than glass so they were able to cut into it without it breaking quite as easily. Our tour guide was a cute little older gentleman and knew so much about the crystal. At the end of the tour they had a bunch of pieces that were the testers for more important pieces such as a 9/11 tribute, a bowl for Barack Obama, and a bunch of trophies and awards including the People’s Choice Award, which we all got to hold.

When we finished our tour around the Waterford Crystal factory, we went walking around the city. We found the old wall that used to surround the city and the four towers all of different shapes. Then we went out to lunch at a place called Bodegas which was delicious. It was all local food with an eclectic twist. After we were all full to the brim we went on a wild goose chase to find a power adapter since Marguerite’s had broke in Switzerland. After checking about five stores and asking several people if they could point us in the right direction, we finally gave up. I managed to find a Irish plug in for a USB so I got that so I could at least charge my phone. Then we headed to our B&B which was about an hour away in Dungarvan.

When we got to our the Bayside B&B, the owner was so sweet and had so many stories to tell us. We decided to go for a walk around the bay which was lovely. We walked on this small little pier and in an effort to get a awesome picture, I almost fell into the bay. I saw these small steps that led down to the water so I went down, not expecting the last few to be extremely slippery. Luckily I didn’t slip all the way into the water, but it was a pretty close call. We ended up walking to a little beach where we all picked some smooth stones to bring back with us. Then we raced back to the bay to watch the sunset. It didn’t end up being as spectacular as we had hoped because the clouds got right in the way of the sun but it was still nice. When we got back to the B&B we were all still too full from lunch to eat dinner so we all sat in Amy and Mom’s room and ate chocolates and drank Baileys and talked. Marguerite and I ended up going back to our room at around 11 and then fell asleep. It was another good day in Ireland.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 11: Dublin, Ireland

Marguerite and I woke up and took showers before heading downstairs to meet Conor for breakfast. We had a quick bowl of cereal before heading back to Dublin to meet Amy and Mom. Conor and I weren’t very talkative, and Marguerite complained about it again, but it was still nice to just all be together. When we got into Dublin headed to St. Judes B&B to drop our bags off. The owner was kind of grumpy, but we got them in our rooms anyway and then headed into the city.

We parked and then walked to Stephens Green Park to wait for Mom and Amy. They had already been out and about exploring for a bit before we got there. We heard them as soon as they were close because Mom yelled out to us. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was so good to see her face coming across the street. We then toured around the city a bit, looking to Conor to tell us what everything was. He went to college there so knew the city pretty well. He took us to the Temple Bar for a drink and a bite to eat before he left to go help out with the new baby calf. Before he left we bought flowers for him to take back to his mom for being such a good hostess. Then we said our goodbyes, but it wasn’t all that sad because we would be seeing him in just a few weeks for camp.

After Conor left, we walked around for a bit and tried to decide what to do. We made our way (eventually) to the National Museum of Ireland trying to find a collection of Leonardo de Vinci drawings that were on display. After walking around for a few minutes, we discovered that we were in the wrong place. We asked around and got directions to the National Gallery of Ireland where the Leonardo de Vinci drawings actually were. It was so interesting to see these drawings and knew that the genius Leonardo de Vinci himself made all of the marks of the paper. Once we had a good look at all the drawings and a few paintings that were also on display, we went back to Stephens Green and walked around a little bit more before catching the tram back to the B&B. Everyone took a nap when we got back to our room because Amy and Mom were jet lagged and Marguerite and I were exhausted from traveling. When we were all a bit rested, we walked into the small town of Cowper for dinner. We ate at a local Irish pub, Mother O’Reilly’s which was mainly filled with locals watching soccer. After dinner we walked back to the B&B and went straight to bed.

*Photos courtesy of Amy. I didn’t take too many pictures this day.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 10: Basel, Switzerland to Timahoe, Ireland

It was our tenth day of the trip, and we were getting on a plane again and traveling up to Ireland to meet our mom. We woke up really early that morning and got ready for the day before saying goodbye to Chris. She had a class that morning, so Lorenzo drove us into Basel to the train station before going to work. We got to Basel pretty early, so we got a locker for our suitcases and went into the city. Marguerite and I weren’t that interested in the city of Basel (we had seen quite a few European cities by now), and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore. We stopped at a coffee shop, trying to get wifi (which we didn’t end up getting), and had the most spectacular hot chocolate I have ever had. We then walked around the city some more, not really caring if we got lost or not. We just needed to waste time until our flight left. It was nice to have some sister time since we had been together quite a bit but not really just the two of us by ourselves. It was also nice to just wander without a clear direction of where to go. When found a Starbucks (how American of us…), we glad were drawn in, as we just needed the wifi so that Marguerite could write back to our mom. Then we headed back to the train station to get our bags and catch the tram to the airport.

We got to the airport a bit early so we had a soft pretzel and some juice before checking in and going through baggage check. Everything went really smoothly and before I knew it, we had touched down in Dublin.

Once we got to Dublin everything went pretty fast, and it didn’t take us long to get our bags or find our way out of the airport. We got outside and met Conor (another former counselor) relatively quickly. We (more like he) packed our stuff into his car, and he drove us back towards his town. It was a quiet car ride (Conor and I are both pretty quiet people), but we all had things to say since it had been a year since we saw each other. He took us to a round tower in the Timahoe town center that was used in the early times to look for invaders. That was pretty much all there was in the town center. Afterwards we went back to his house, where his mother Gill welcomed us as soon as we got there. We had a cup of tea and spoke about camp (Conor was returning again this summer). His father came in and told us that a calf had been born the night before, and we went outside to go see it. It was so sweet; all brown with a pink nose, but the mom wouldn’t let us get close to it. Gill had prepared a HUGE dinner with steak on bread with paté, potatoes, green beans and onions. It was delicious, but there was so much food. There was Bailey’s cheesecake for dessert, which we were all too full to eat,  but it was too good to resist. There wasn’t really much to do in Timahoe, therefore we watched Monument Men which I had never seen before. Marguerite fell asleep then started asking what was happening halfway through the movie, but she had missed too much to catch her up. Before we went to bed we chatted with Conor’s brother, Kieran who revealed many embarrassing stories of his brother and Conor told stories of his brother. It was a good, relaxing first day in Ireland.

*Didn’t have many pictures today, so enjoy these few snapshots and snapchats from throughout the day.