The Ireland Trip: Kilkenny and Dublin

It’s high time for me to finish procrastinating on the Ireland posts so I can start procrastinating on regular posts instead, but that’s not the reason the Kilkenny and Dublin are lumped together here. It’s actually because I have only one good picture of Dublin, which I will get to in a bit.

So on our second to last full day in Ireland, we drove from Killarney to Kilkenny, which was nice but mostly forgettable. Driving across southern Ireland can be easily summed up by two things: Green fields, and traffic circles.

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At one point we went through fifteen traffic circles in twenty miles. It’s not so great when you’re still not good at the low gears in a manual.

We arrived in Kilkenny around noon, and parked our stuff at the Kilkenny Hotel, which was big but quite nice.

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The bigger hotels in Ireland can best be described as: Impersonal, but with a better breakfast service than you will ever find in the States.

And then we popped out to explore the city, which at first, I didn’t like. That’s because Kilkenny was the first city that didn’t seem to cater exclusively to tourists. There were chain stores, busy streets with traffic jams, fast food restaurants, and all the cool bits of history had been impatiently built around because Irish people don’t have time for 300 year old buildings when they’re everywhere and blocking good building sites.

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This tower is inconvenient and blocking a perfectly good parking lot.

Wandering around, it was clear the place had charm, but more so the farther you went from the somewhat garish main street, which I didn’t think to take a picture of and which I now regret.

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Entirely by wandering, James and I stumbled across St. Canice’s Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful but which we were too cheap to pay the fee to see the interior. The round tower was climbable, but also for a fee.

And we were still cheap.

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The graveyard was free to explore, though. Most of the graves were worn down and unreadable, like the books I’ve had since childhood.

And then, running low on ideas and eating lunch in a restaurant that was only mildly charming, I started Googling things to see. We settled on the Medieval Mile Museum.

Going purely from my entirely fallible memory, the Medieval Mile Museum was a very new construct, built in the bones of an old church. The place had been stripped down and the inside was spacious and largely unrecognizable as a church, but it showcased the artifacts and tombs found in and around the place very nicely.

IMG_20170630_165642110An example of the way they displayed the old tombs. There were a few of them scattered throughout the museum, and covered in glass so you could stand on top of them if you wished.

On the tour we took, our guide told us that the bones of the main street of Kilkenny had been around since approximately the 12th century, meaning all the McDonald’s we walked past had been built into ancient city structures. The ‘Medieval Mile’ aspect encouraged you to walk from St. Canice’s to… I don’t remember, some other historical destination, but we had inadvertently wandered all over the thing already, so we didn’t do it again.

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The museum had a nice view of the Kilkenny rooftops at the end of the tour.

The only thing we did go back and see was the Black Freren Gate, which we had missed. It’s the only part of the old Norman walls still standing.

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And it’s just another part of everyday life in Kilkenny.

At this point we headed back to the hotel, stopping briefly at another massive church along the way. I don’t even remember the name of this one, but the priest had stopped by briefly for some priestly business and greeted us with a cheery hello. We pretended we were there for spiritual reasons rather than to take pictures, but I don’t think anyone was fooled.

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And then we settled back into the hotel for the night. The next morning we were set to drive from Kilkenny to Dublin early so we could take in a portion of the city before our flight the day after.

We had a wonderful full Irish breakfast with more of their curiously fat bacon, loaded up our trunks and packed it all out to the car. As we popped the trunk, I noted that someone had smashed a bottle on the ground nearby, the blue-green shards lying between our car and the next.

And then James went to get in the driver’s seat, and it turned out the glass was from our window instead. Someone had broken the window and stolen the only thing of “value” from our rental car, the GPS.

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This was a terrible situation, you see, because it meant we would have to be adults. Adults who did things like called the car rental company and brought in the police and alerted the hotel. That’s what adults do. And at 21, I’m most certainly an adult, and my parents were in a different country, so I couldn’t call them for help.

So we notified the hotel, who were shocked because they had never had such a thing happen before, and the head of security was more of an adult than us and called the Gardaí while I reported it to the rental company.

The Gardaí came to take the report. Despite being Irish, it was like something out of a British comedy. There were two of them, a genial joke-a-minute older fellow and a younger no-nonsense woman. While she wrote up the report, the cheerful fellow noted that we couldn’t be Trump supporters because, you see, we knew how to drive a stick shift.

(The Irish people were not happy with Trump during the week we were there, because he had said something vaguely sexist to an Irish reporter a few days prior. It was all over the Irish news. I remember watching it and thinking ‘That’s all?’ which is a terrible thing to think.)

He also noted that the GPS was a ‘Never Lost’ GPS. “Well,” he said, with several elbow nudges, “It’s lost now, eh?” And then he turned to the lady Garda to repeat the joke. She made me sign some papers.

The hotel took over then, and had a housekeeper meticulously clean off the glass from the inside while they gave us complimentary hot drinks. They were very nice and very apologetic.

Kilkenny didn’t have a branch of our rental company, so we were fortunate it didn’t rain- much- when we finally got on our way and drove our windowless car for two hours to Dublin. We were about three hours behind schedule and the Dublin branch of the car company was closed by the time we arrived, so we cleaned it of all valuables and threw it into a parking garage overnight, where mercifully it came out all right, presumably because the resident criminals could already crawl inside to see what was in there.

Meanwhile, we discovered that Dublin reminded us an awful lot of Philadelphia.

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Except for the classic river shot.

It was very crowded, and we saw more diversity there than in the entire rest of the week combined. We had a few hours to kill before we had a reservation for an evening event at Dublin’s “oldest pub,” so we just wandered.

Right into the middle of a massive pro-life rally and the counter pro-choice protestors.

We went into a Supermac’s to hide for a while. Supermac’s is an Irish fast food place. We had done a great job of eating at small local joints all week, so we decided to try the fast food in Ireland. Supermac’s, it turns out, is remarkably like McDonald’s, just less salty.

I added salt to my food. I’m an American.

I didn’t take many pictures at all, which I regret, but we were exhausted and if we stopped to take a picture of something we were bowled over by aggressive pedestrians, rather like residents of New York City.

We headed then to “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at The Brazen Head, which I would have taken pictures of were it not so crowded. It was Saturday night, and the pub was packed with bodies, lots of whom were already drunk. From what I could barely see, it was an agreeable place.

We were ushered to the quieter upstairs, where four large tables had been squeezed into a medium room. About half the people seated were Irish, mostly from places besides Dublin, and the rest were tourists from America, Germany, New Zealand. Our story-teller, Ollie, was captivating. He might have been a fairy, there’s really no knowing. He told us stories all throughout dinner, and then brought out a guitar and urged us to sing some traditional folk songs with him.

At the end of the night, an Irish lady who had been at our table pulled us aside. “My husband and I were curious,” she said, “what brings two young folks like yourself to a traditional Irish storytelling?”

I babbled for a bit about loving the culture and the music and the mythology, and she seemed bemused, but offered, “You were quite good earlier. You knew all the songs!”

I’ll be riding on that compliment for the rest of my life.

 

The next day, we packed up early so we could turn the car in and deal with the consequences. The consequences, it turned out, were to the tune of 300. If I ever go to Ireland again, I’m buying insurance for the rental car.

Then, tired and fatter, we returned home. There was a disappointing lack of stone fences everywhere, but at least everything wasn’t so claustrophobic.

The Ireland Trip: Killarney

Our second city in the week was Killarney, and, being a professional Ireland traveler with four whole Irish cities under my belt, I can honestly say that Killarney is probably the best of the lot.

Mind you, to get there we had to drive an additional few hours from the Cliffs of Moher, and it was a great hardship because we had to keep passing beautiful ruins and be reminded that we didn’t have anything of the sort in America.

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In the space of two hours, you’d see upwards of five stone ruins, and that’s just if you kept to the “main” roads without ever following the tempting motorway exit signs that promised an abundance of castles.

Killarney won me over immediately because the hotel had an electric kettle for tea, something which the Galway hotel did not have. As it turns out, the Galway hotel was a bit of an anomaly, because all the rest of the hotels had one as well.

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With little cookies and everything. As it should be.

James and I were walking around the town as late as eight or nine at night, and marveling about it. We really didn’t imagine that Ireland would be that much farther north than where we had come from, but it didn’t begin to get dark until around ten and started to get light again around four.

This would have been unbearable for me if it had ever been sunny. Fortunately, the clouds hid me in darkness.

When we were wondering towards the hotel for the night, we noticed that there was a massive church spire of some kind rising over the back of it. It was very eye-catching, because there really isn’t much in Ireland that’s tall in any sense of the word.

So, without any phone usage, we just went looking for the structure.

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The back streets of Killarney were cute. And this is about 9:30 at night.

The spire, we discovered, belonged to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was probably my favorite cathedral in Ireland simply because of the spontaneous late-night adventure we went on to find it, chasing the sight of the steeple over the rooftops.

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In fact, the spire was too tall for my phone too capture without cutting out some part of it, be it length or width-wise. Beautiful thing, though.

It was too late to go in, but the gates were all open so we circled the thing anyway, because if Ireland really wanted to keep nosy Americans out they’d lock up better.

Killarney was also the first place I tried black pudding, something I’d never wanted to do because, frankly, it sounded gross.

It was gross, but that’s because it tasted like meatloaf, and I hate meatloaf. Yes, even your mom’s meatloaf. All meatloaf, stop asking.

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James loved the “full Irish breakfast” option, because it was consistently the most artery-clogging dish to be found.

Killarney had an adorable and very touristy main street from which James and I purchased a great deal of Bailey’s ice cream, which is possibly the highlight of my ice cream experience in life thus far.

But the greatest part of Killarney, according to me, Killarney expert, is the Killarney National Park. At least, I think that’s it’s name.

From the hotel, we could walk around two miles to get to Ross Castle, through beautiful fields and the first real amount of trees I had seen in one place. And there were mountains in the background! Mountains, Gandalf!

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Sure, you had to frequently move off the road to make way for one of the horse and buggy tours, but that was nicely reminiscent of Lancaster PA. 

On the way to Ross Castle, for no reason that I can think, I started laying a penny out on the forest path every fifteen feet or so, creating a neat little trail of shining copper. Then I moved to nickles, then dimes, then a solitary quarter. I don’t know why, I think I was bored. Regardless, I know I would have been thrilled to find a trail of Euro coins in the woods in America.

Ross Castle, meanwhile, met my low castle standards.

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There’s really no telling what it used to look like, because the tour we took of it covered the fact that until recently no one cared what happened to a castle that their family happened to own, and they tore bits down or put new bits up, but the restoration they had done to it in recent years was very good. I couldn’t tell where the old parts stopped and the new parts began.

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Along with the tour, you were allowed to climb over almost every inch of the place. No guards or cameras or even ropes to keep us off parts, on the assumption that we’d be respectful and think carefully about our actions.

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Nah.

No pictures were allowed on the tour, which was very informative and surprisingly fun. Our tour guide was very excited that I had a question about the place- namely, which part of the roof had been torn off to avoid paying taxes on the place.

It was the top part.

People will do anything to avoid paying taxes.

I don’t think he ever got many questions on his tours, he seemed notably more energetic after that.

Nice fellow.

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I took a quick picture out of the top window of the castle anyway, for rebellion’s sake.

When we walked back to the hotel, all the coins I had put down were gone.

The next part of our Killarney experience was going to see the Torc Waterfall. We piled into the tiny car and made our way through tiny streets and down tiny winding roads through the very large forest, following our unreliable GPS for Torc Waterfall. At one point, we came across a fork in the road, where the GPS told us to go to the left and all the official signs told us to go right, so we went right and discovered that the parking space for the waterfall was filled to the brim with tour buses.

So, turning around, we went back down the other fork. We drove, and drove, and drove. It was very narrow, and there was nowhere to park along the way and no signs, so when we began to approach the point on the GPS we parked the car on the first tiny flat space we found alongside the road and walked from there.

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This was the first place we’d been that was really devoid of people.

It was a bit of a walk, but fortunately, we had brought our newly-acquired Irish whistles with us, to the despair of the local wildlife.

But we passed the point on the GPS with no sign of the waterfall, and at this point we had climbed quite high, so we figured we must be above it. We kept walking for a bit, but the road went on through the trees, so instead we decided to climb down through the woods, something many enterprising people had already done, judging by the widened deer trails.

So, as many stupid young people do before they are lost forever and eaten by wildlife enraged by the sound of poorly played Irish whistles, we decided to cut down through the woods to the other road, and walk to the waterfall through there.

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Actually, it was quite nice.

About halfway through we realized it would be Hellish to climb back up, but we figured there was no use in stopping just then, so we kept going. And, miraculously, we came right out into the full parking lot- now obviously mostly empty- and the official path straight to the waterfall.

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6/10 as far as waterfalls go, 8/10 because it’s in Ireland.

We were hanging about near the waterfall, dreading the steep hike back up through the woods, when we realized the paved path from the parking lot to the waterfall didn’t end there- concrete steps on the hillside disappeared up into the forest. Figuring we could follow it as far as possible, we started to climb.

We climbed for a long time, and started to veer very off course, which made us nervous. At last, though, the path reached flat ground, and split off in different directions. We took the one that brought us in the general direction of the road with our car.

It deposited us into a parking lot above the waterfall.

The place where we had given up and crashed through the forest instead was hardly two hundred yards down the road, around a bend.

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Ireland looks a lot like the Pacific North-West sometimes. Okay, only in Killarney.

To celebrate our stupidity, we went to “Ireland’s only Lord of the Rings themed pub” for dinner.

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The fake grass really makes it.

We had read a poor Google review about the place before going, claiming that it was only “vaguely” Lord of the Rings themed, and barely had anything to do with the series at all, but as James later remarked, it turns out they were just mad that the place didn’t directly transport them to Middle-Earth. In reality, it was about as LOTR-themed as a place could get while still being a regular pub.

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It was very green, though, and hard to photograph. If you squint, you can see the Elvish inscription on the ceiling.

We spent our last night in Killarney drinking “Hobbit Juice” and “Frodo’s Lager.” John tried a shot called a “Nazgul,” which was appropriately menacing. The live music started around 9:00, and when it was all said and done we walked back to the hotel when it was still light out.

Too much daylight around there, if you ask me.

The Ireland Trip: The Cliffs of Moher

After Galway we drove around Galway Bay in the general direction of the Cliffs of Moher. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what we drove through. I know we hit at least three counties that day- Galway, Clare, and Kerry- but beyond that I can’t honestly say which towns we drove through, or where “The Burren” begins and ends.

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All I know is that most towns had something three times as old as America in it, like this random castle we drove by.

Nearly every town we passed was beautiful and picturesque beyond belief. It got to the point where I started to resent American towns. “Why can’t we have cute little hedge rows and stone fences everywhere?” I complained to John, multiple times an hour. “Why can’t we at least make an effort to build our McDonald’s in an old world style?”

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Well now I just don’t want to worship in my ’70s Lutheran church with the weird windows and the shag carpeting.

As we circled the bay we started to approach the hilly area we had seen from the other side. After a whole three minutes of Googling, I’m still not quite sure what they’re called. All I can tell is that they’re probably part of “The Burren,” though I’m not even sure Irish people know where the Burren begins and ends. It’s just an area full of rocky cliffs, rocky hills, and rocky farmhouses.

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Beautiful though.

I’m not sure whether what we had to climb over to get to the Cliffs of Moher is defined as a “mountain.” Briefly looking up “Irish mountains” on Google Maps shows no mountains in that area. I suppose they’re just very large, rocky hills.

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They weren’t very big, but after a few days in Ireland, you start to get used to everything being flat.

The road up was steep, winding, narrow, and naturally filled to the brim with large, bulky tour buses. At one point, when swerving outrageously up the hills with a tour bus on our tail, the car stalled and started to roll backwards for one terrifying moment. Once again, the Irish people and tourists were remarkably understanding and no one honked at us.

Then we got to the top, got stuck behind a slow-moving, frequently-stalling tourist in another rental car, and complained about him for half an hour like the true Americans we are.

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You can tell where all the stone for the walls comes from.

And then we got to the Cliffs of Moher. I booked entry tickets in advance, which was a good thing because the park fills up rapidly in the summer when it’s not raining, even in the early morning on a weekday.

In order to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape, the park had hidden their bathrooms, gift shops, and food courts underground, built into the side of the hill like a commercialized Hobbiton. I stopped briefly into the gift shop to see what kind of Authentic Irish goods I could find, but after seeing the same gifts I saw in eight separate shops in Galway, I began to suspect that there was only one producer of Authentic Irish goods in Ireland.

And then we climbed the hill to the Cliffs, and despite the eight hundred other tourists we had to fight through, it was worth it. Easy to see why there were eight hundred other tourists in the first place.

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The little tower on the mildly less picturesque side of the Cliffs was a modern creation, though clearly meant to blend in. For a few Euro you could climb to the top, in order to better see over the heads of the tourists.

IMG_20170628_121558673_HDRI just brought a 6’2″ guy with me. Easier than paying 2.

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This was the view with your back to the Cliffs. Still beautiful. I bet the cows were happy.

And then, as the midday tourist vans started to roll in, we hopped back into our car and drove towards Killarney.

Along the way, we passed through a hideous little town, reminiscent of those upper-middle-class suburbs that spring up in newly rich communities in America. All the houses were modern and had made very little effort to match the landscape, and there was a massive golf course as though Ireland itself weren’t already, essentially, one very large golf course.

I really can’t complain, since the town has nothing to do with me, but it was awful and ugly and reminded me too much of America, which is typically awful and ugly. I would bet a small amount of real money that it was mostly filled with vacation homes for American people.

Why can’t Ireland cater to my every whim and standard, that’s what I want to know.

The Ireland Trip: Galway

The truly wonderful thing about using a travel agent and being a tourist in Ireland is that you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Particularly if the ride is your boyfriend attempting to drive a manual across an entire country.

Especially if you’re too young to legally do any of the driving in the rental car.

Dublin to Galway was a bit nerve-wracking, mostly for James, but I had a splendid time sight-seeing and nagging him to stay on the left side of the road. I didn’t take any pictures of this time because my phone was completely dead. We were entirely at the mercy of our GPS.

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The hotel was beautiful, though.

We made it in the early afternoon, but it was always a little difficult to tell time in Ireland because it was always cloudy. This probably comes as a surprise to no one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, because I didn’t get a sunburn the entire time I was there. In fact, since I never applied sunscreen, I got the barest hint of a tan, turning me from a pasty #FFFFFF to a pasty #FFFBF5.

Our hotel was right across the road from Galway Bay, which didn’t smell overly salty and reminded me of the massive Lake Coeur d’Alene I used to live near. Our hotel was also right next to the world’s saddest boardwalk amusement park.

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Frequently seen here: Underpaid Irish teenagers huddling under dead machinery to keep out of the constant rain.

The bay, though gray, was beautiful.

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If you look in the corner of the picture above, you’ll see a little hut on top of a pier. There was one of these every half mile or so, and I’m not sure what exactly they were for, but they looked quite cozy inside.

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Primarily because each of them came with their own tea kettle.

There were plenty of Galway residents out and about, jogging and biking and generally being more athletic than Americans, despite the constant drizzly weather. One thing I found interesting was that they typically didn’t leash their dogs; the happy canines would bound ahead to sniff at rocks and trees and other dogs, and then turn and patiently wait for their owners to catch up.

I’m certain there are well-trained dogs in America, but I guess it must be law in most places to keep them leashed. Something I never really thought about, because our dogs were never ever well-trained and letting them run free was never an option.

After recovering from the trip, James and I set out towards the center of Galway in search of expensive tourist widgets to bring back to our families. I had done a haphazard searching on my phone for a Irish gift shop, only a mile or so from where we were staying, so we set off on foot to go look for a small tourist shop.

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Instead, we found forty of them in one go.

Completely by accident, after diverting a little from our pre-Googled path, we stumbled across the Latin Quarter, an absolutely beautiful set of alleys and streets completely packed with every gift shop imaginable. Claddagh rings rained from the sky for only 40-70 a piece.

At one point we rounded a corner and came across St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, opened in 1320, which to us Americans was unfathomably old. It was hard to photograph from the outside, mostly because of the beggar lady we were avoiding.

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The inside was also hard to photograph, because when there’s so much magnificent architecture happening at once, your poor phone can’t take it all in. This was a recurring theme in Ireland.

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St. Nicholas’ also had a door that was exactly my size. I was very, very excited about it.

It was our first real taste of ‘everything here is older than America’. I never really got over it while I was there, and James delighted in taking pictures of McDonald’s housed in stonework from the 14th century.

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The cathedrals always had gorgeous graveyards to boot.

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Also, this strange little judgement station in the back. Get your judgement here!

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Ah yes, The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas. Or Galway Cathedral, if you’re being practical.

We also went to Galway’s best known Cathedral- the building across the river with the dome- but it was so big up close that none of my pictures looked right. I found it interesting that every big church we saw in Ireland was always wide open for visitors, no matter the day. I suppose that’s how they make their money, by tourists offering donations. Whatever works, right?

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So instead of the cathedral, have a picture of two guys fishing in the river outside of the cathedral.

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More Galway Bay.

James and I had two days in Galway, and we wrapped it up by buying some thick Irish sweaters- so people could instantly tell we were anything but Irish- and going wading in the bay. We had just seen some people in wetsuits doing some kind of swim match in it, so we figured it couldn’t be that bad.

It was pretty bad. But not the coldest water I’ve ever felt. Everything’s a little chilly there.

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An unflattering picture of James putting on his socks again.

Truth be told, I think it was a toss-up between Galway and Killarney for my favorite places in Ireland. Galway, the little we saw of it, was delightful, and I discovered mushy peas there, which will always have a special place in my heart.

An Irish Vacation

When it comes to vacations as a nanny, you are entirely at the mercy of your employer’s work schedule. You can’t very well say “I’m going to head out for a week next month” if you don’t know that they can get that week off, because if they can’t and you go anyway the children will be left to their own devices and will start a cruel and warlike society in your absence.

Instead, I typically take my vacations wherever I can get them, and they’re frequently a surprise. When Mrs. Parent caught hold of me one day and announced that there was a week at the end of June I could take, it sent me into a panicked frenzy because I only had a month and a half to book plane tickets to somewhere, and plane tickets cost lots of money when you order them a year in advance. Ordering them a month in advance means they cost several lots of money.

I was going to fly back to Idaho to see my family, the way I did last year, but it suddenly dawned on me as I was browsing plane tickets that I could go anywhere. Just… anywhere.

So I booked tickets to Ireland.

I’ve always wanted to go, you see. I can’t claim to have more than a drop of Irish blood in me, but I’ve always devoured any scrap of Celtic mythology, history, or culture I could get my hands on. Even those stupid touristy things. I will buy literally anything with some Celtic knotwork on it; if you engrave it on a toilet I’ll take five.

I was going to go on my own, but my boyfriend James has a lovely job that’s highly flexible and pays well, which is what you get when you’re very intelligent and go to college instead of nanny school, so he was able to come along.

I stressed for a good three weeks about all the interesting places I wanted to see, before I realized there was no way to plan it all and I had better just do all the neat tourist destinations my first time around, on the basis that they’re popular for a reason. In the end, I contacted an Irish travel agent, Maria, who set me up with a rental car, maps and guides, and hotel reservations in four different Irish cities.

I highly recommend a travel agent if you’re completely clueless. They’re used to it.

Our plan via the travel agent was to arrive in Dublin on Monday morning, and to go from there to Galway, and from Galway to Kilkenny, and from Kilkenny to Killarney, and then back to Dublin again, for a total of seven days. We would do this all via rental car, which James had to drive because I’m not the minimum age of twenty-four.

James puts up with a lot.

We took an overnight flight out on a Sunday, because my employers had me working that weekend. We flew with Aer Lingus, and while I dislike receiving countless unrelated emails from them, I have to admit that they’re one of the better airlines I’ve flown on.

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For instance, we got a real meal while we were on that flight, completely for free, in addition to their later free snack and tea service. This little meal included a roll, a cauliflower salad, a great pasta meal, and a little strawberry cream desert. Having only ever flown on the most terrible airlines, this was incredible to me.

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Each of the seats also had a built in TV screen, featuring free movies and games, with an attached remote/controller, and free earbuds. James and I were stunned. We kept expecting a paywall to come up when we selected a movie, but no. Free.

I specifically booked a window seat as we flew in, and it was worth it for the views of Ireland in the morning light. Funnily enough, I don’t think I ever registered just how populated the island is. When I used to speak about living there, my dad said “I think you’ll find that it’s smaller than you realize,” and he was right. You really take the vast distances between things in the U.S. for granted.

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All of it’s like this, at least in the middle-south. I don’t think we ever drove through a part that didn’t have at least one house visible somewhere int he distance. It’s fields and fields and fields.

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Not that it’s not beautiful. Like the Shire all over. That’s a golf course, but even when it’s not a golf course, Ireland’s a golf course.

I’ll cover each of the cities whenever I can force myself to get around to it; I took a lot of pictures and most of them were terrible, so it requires some sorting. Just know that I highly recommend Ireland, but I also recommend going for longer and speaking to more people and learning more than we did. We’ll do that the second time around.

 

Messy Maxi

I’ve always had a problem with maxi dresses, because the people who make maxi dresses like to assume that you’re a reasonably-sized human being, which I have never been.

And it’s a real shame when you’re a Hobbit with Elvish aspirations, fantasizing about gliding effortlessly down a hallway in a flowing dress without the dress immediately catching under your feet and resulting in a total collapse.

So why I decided to buy a particularly flowy maxi spring dress off of Amazon, I’ll never know.

Actually, I do know. It’s because one of the reviewers described herself as a petite Asian girl, standing at only 5’1″, who decided the dress was perfectly reasonable if you wore shoes with a little height. I couldn’t see the shoes she wore in the picture, but I have to assume now that they were Herman Munster boots.

So I bought this dress off of Amazon, and upon wearing it, discovered that it completely swallowed up my feet and an inch of ground around me. Which meant, unfortunately, that I would have to hem it.

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If I owned six inch heels, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Now, I have a sewing machine, but it’s mostly for show. It’s not like anyone ever comes in my room, but if they did, they might see the sewing machine and might assume I’m a crafty person, when in actuality I have the creativity and sewing prowess of a stick of soft butter.

A stick of soft butter with the inability to create an even new hem on curved section of fabric.

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I started by setting up my sewing machine, a process which took forty minutes because I couldn’t figure out why the bottom thread wasn’t catching. It was because I was turning the wheel the wrong way.

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You would think measuring would help, but in fact, it doesn’t help if you do it wrong.

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I pinned the dress to mark where I wanted to cut, so that there was only a moderate amount of guesswork involved.

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I could make a scarf out of the excess material! I kid, of course. I’d never make this into a scarf, I’d just wear it as-is until it resembled more fray than fabric.

So I inexpertly pinned the hem into place, and I thought I did a pretty good job. And then I tried to actually sew it, and it turned out that I had done quite an awful job, unless my goal had been to create the world’s most uneven hem.

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It looked okay until I realized I was creating a top-heavy hem. Next time I won’t sew so close to the bottom of the dress. Learning!

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The middle part is just the way the dress naturally hangs, I swear.

The end result was mildly disappointing, but I could see my feet again, which was nice. Overall, I find the dress to be acceptable, because you don’t realize how badly it’s hemmed unless you really stare at my feet, and only a small portion of the population would be interested in that anyway.

And to think that my poor sewing machine could have been placed in a loving home.

Frizzled Wizard World

If you want to instantly connect with women ages 18 to 40 who are in some way involved in public education, dress up as Ms. Frizzle and walk around a nerd convention.

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This is from Halloween of last year, but the costume’s… somewhat the same. Mostly.

My friends and I went to Wizard World Philadelphia recently, and of the three of us I was the only one who dressed up, so the other two had to suffer while teacher after teacher pulled me aside to gush over how much they loved Ms. Frizzle, and take pictures with me.

Well, I enjoyed it.

There were people out there with far more impressive cosplays than me, mind you.

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After I took a photograph, as I walked away, I could hear them fluttering about how Ms. Frizzle had just asked for their picture.

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I saw this fellow standing off to the side and I stared at him for at least three seconds before I got it. It’s Milo! From Atlantis!

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Just look at that. That’s impressive. I honestly can’t tell how old the middle lady is, she could be eighty or twenty under all that makeup and wig. 

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Yondu Poppins. He said I wore a dress better than him, but I have to disagree.

Dressing up as Ms. Frizzle was fun just for the bug of nostalgia it infected people with. Vendors stood up in their booth and scrambled after me to get pictures. I heard people shouting (and whispering) “Ms. Frizzle!” to me and to each other all around the convention center. People gushed.

There weren’t many children around, but one little girl desperately wanted a picture with me and I let her hold Liz for it. When my feet started to give out in the yellow high heels and I was leaning against a wall to put on my emergency flats, a mother pushing her little daughter in a wheelchair did a double-take, stopped, and then made a beeline for me.

“Look!” she said to the girl, who didn’t seem able to talk, “See that? It’s Ms. Frizzle! See the Bus? See Liz?”

It took a second, and then the girl’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.

It really sticks with you, things like that. Especially when you’re just an idiot in a dress your sister made you, with one shoe off against the wall of a convention center.

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Also, Rose from Doctor Who was there. I took a picture from a distance so that I didn’t have to pay money or talk to people.