This is the post in which I will probably make my mom very sad. Disclaimer: even though from the outside some of the decisions we made were a little silly, we wouldn’t have made any of them if we really thought it was unsafe. Our mothers taught us that much, at least.
We left Dublin early early Thursday morning to catch a bus to Limerick. Once there we stored our luggage at the train station and went to explore the city.
The first place we visited was Saint John’s Cathedral. When we arrived there was still mass going on, so we took pictures of the outside and waited for it to end. The man running traffic for the church came over and told us where to stand to take a picture of the campanile, the highest spire in Limerick. He was such a Chatty Cathy; he told us to go visit the parishioner’s home next door, and a statue of a man special to Limerick, and the history of Limerick, and everything else in between.
We were planning on trying to visit Adare, the prettiest town in Ireland, which was only a twenty minute ride from Limerick. We asked the guy, whose name is Ger, a couple questions about the bus route. He tried to figure it out, but gave up and just offered to drive us there himself. This guy was super nice, and he worked for the church, so of course we decided to skip paying for a bus ticket and said yes.
We left to go see the city a bit before meeting up with Ger. We stopped by St. Mary’s Cathedral, and King John’s Castle, which is located in a restored medieval part of town.
Ger drove us to Adare, taking us through some countryside so we could see non-touristy Ireland. He dropped us off and we agreed to meet him back in a couple hours.
I can definitely see why Adare could be the prettiest town in Ireland. It’s chock full of quaint little shops with thatched roofs and colorful walls. We took a whole lot of pictures of each other and of all the cute stuff in this one street town.
Ger drove us back to the train station, where we got on a bus to take us to Doolin, which is the closest town to the Cliffs of Moher. We accidentally missed our stop, and had to walk to our hostel in the dark. The hostel owner let us in, and told us that we were the only guests that night! He gave us a free upgrade in room size. He told us to go to McGann’s for dinner, a nearby pub that had live music every night. We were told to go there a lot during our stay, so it was clearly the most popular place.
We were able to sleep in for the first time on our trip. After waking up at a more leisurely time and eating breakfast, we piled on layers and set out to hike the cliffs. We walked past the fork that the buses would take to drive people up to the top, and we made the two and a half hour climb up ourselves. It’s way more fun and rewarding to do it this way. We got to see all the extra things that people who just bussed up missed. Also because there was nobody to stop us from adventuring past the beaten path to hang over the edge and see what we could see.
For the most part the hike wasn’t too hard, with just a few outrageously steep hills we had to climb. But every time we reached flat ground we could look out in amazement at the huge cliffs in front of us. They are absolutely massive, and breath-taking. There are no words to describe how amazing they were, so since a picture is worth a thousand words here’s an essay.
And there’s even more that will be posted on Facebook.
At the top we had lunch in a cafe in the visitor’s center. The top was actually the least inspiring viewpoint (might have had something to do with the big wall). On our way back down we sat on an outcropping of rock and read a super appropriate psalm.
He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow. Psalm 147:15-18.
The weather was fantastic the entire time we were on the cliffs, which was about eight hours. We actually took off layers for our hike up. It only rained at the very end, and by that point we were on paved road.
As we made our way back down, we followed a path that only existed due to the countless feet before us. The path was only a few feet from the edge of the cliff. At one point, it veered too close for comfort, so we hopped a fence to get away. Unfortunately, on the other side of the fence was a bunch of marshy land. We tried to jump from rock to rock and get back to the path unscathed, but that just never works out. Mere feet from the next fence we both slipped and fell directly into mud. Our shoes and socks were absolutely soaked in mud! Luckily not much else got dirty, except the cuffs of my sleeves.
We squished our way back to the hostel, where we ate all the leftover food previous guests had left. Then we went back to McGann’s to try a pint of Irish beer.
The next day was supposed to be stormy all day, so the ferries to the Aran Islands were cancelled. Not wanting to waste our day, we got directions from the hostel owner to get to the beach for a walk.
Little did we know that this walk was more of a treacherous hike through uneven sharp rocks, squishy mud and grass, and gross cow pies! There were also cows themselves, staring at us menacingly (because apparently cows can do that.) To top it all off, it was raining hard, and there was so much wind that every drop of rain felt like a needle in what little exposed skin there was. It was absolutely misery. No pictures were taken because I didn’t want to have to stop and take out my camera. The ones Liz took betray the difficulty of the journey.
When we were about halfway through, we saw this old man practically jaunting through the territory. Liz caught up to him, and he led us back to Doolin. We were cold, wet, and exhausted, but we still had a couple miles to go before getting to our hostel. A bus picked us up and drove us closer to the center of town. We had decided earlier we wanted to make dinner that night, but when we realized that the closest grocery store was a fifteen minute walk uphill (still in the rain), that just wasn’t going to happen. After the bus success, we stuck out our thumbs to try to get a ride up. Four cars passed us before a white van stopped. There were two men in the front, and the driver crawled through the back to let us in. Yes, we willingly crawled into the back of a white van. Even the driver commented on how trusting we were!
His name was Cormac, and he lived only a couple doors down from our hostel. He had grown up in Doolin, and knew our hostel owner. Cormac drove us up to the grocery store, and because that had been his destination too, he drove us back home as well, along with another Irishman who had asked for a ride. Cormac told us that the people who drove past us must have been tourists, because any Irish person would have stopped for us.
We accidentally bought enough food to feed four people, but we ate almost all of it. Then we curled up in front of the fire surrounded by all our wet clothes. There were more guests in the hostel by this point, but they were mostly men and large parties so we had our room to ourselves the whole time. We sat and talked with one of the guests for a little while before going to bed, exhausted from the day.
The next morning we got on a bus heading for Galway. Like Limerick, this was just a stop between the Cliffs of Moher and Dublin where we could stretch our legs and see another Irish city.
The important area of Galway is this one long street that splits off several times. it’s filled with shops and restaurants. Liz and I ate lunch there, then did a little souvenir shopping. I got a great pair of wool socks! We went to a teashop called Secret Garden, and tried some loose leaf tea and delicious cakes. This vacation is the first time I’ve ever finished a cup of tea in my life and didn’t hate it! We drank a lot of tea while on these islands.
We made our bus in the nick of time, and left our luggage on it while we ran to try to use the bathroom. That was the one bad decision we made today (sorry mom), and like all the others nothing bad came of it.
The bus dropped us off a stone’s throw from our old hostel in Dublin. Instead of paying for a room that we would get two hours of sleep in, we bought a shuttle ticket from the front desk for the airport, and we were allowed to store our luggage and sit in the lobby until it arrived at 3:30.
At one in the morning we went to Temple Bar to eat some kebabs (my first one ever). We tried to go to another bar, but they were already closed! Talk about a culture shock, we assumed that Dublin pubs would stay open all night! There were still people inside them but the bouncers at the doors wouldn’t let us in.
Back at the hostel we made ourselves cups of hot chocolate (something we drank a lot on this trip), and waited for the shuttle to come.
The airport was decently crowded for 4am (Easter traveling), but we sped through check-in and security, and were boarded before we knew it. For once on this trip, the plane to Rome, bus to the station, and train to Florence we took were all on time, and nothing went wrong. In fact, once on the train, we started talking with an older American could who were visiting Florence for a couple days. We ended up sitting with them and giving them all sorts of advice, including a long list of restaurants. As a thank you, they took us out for dinner!
This trip was definitely a learning experience. Planning, organizing, and orchestrating everything that goes into a long vacation is way more work than I expected. I suddenly have way more respect for my parents and the ease with which they executed all our family vacations!
If I learned anything from this trip, it’s to definitely take the candy offered from strangers. Just kidding! We took risks along the way but we kept our heads. If Ger looked any kind of creepy there was no way we would’ve gotten in his car. But since he didn’t, we got to see a cute town and get a crazy story out of it!