Video: Day Eighteen, Ring of Kerry

Our windy and cloudy day exploring the Ring of Kerry in Ireland with our wonderful driver Barry O’Rourke! (If you are going to Ireland, I highly recommend seeing the Ring of Kerry and booking Barry as a driver! His website is here and his reviews on TripAdvisor are here.) Watch for beautiful views of Ireland – the coast, the towns, the forests. Also, catch our favorite Star Wars moment of the trip in this video.

Music: Jig of Slurs from Cup of Tea by Sláinte is licensed under a Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Accessed on Free Music Archive here

Video: Days Seventeen to Nineteen, Killarney

Our time spent in Killarney, including roaming the town, going to Murphy’s pub, exploring the lakeside, having a drink at The Shire, and seeing the amazing “Spirit of Ireland” live music and dance show!

Music: Denis Murphy’s Polka. I’ll Tell Me Ma. John Ryan’s Polka
Cup of Tea by Sláinte is licensed under a Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Video: Day Sixteen, Dublin

As I’m catching up on footage, I do apologize for jumping around on days for the videos; still, enjoy experiencing our day in Dublin! Day Sixteen included walking the streets of Dublin, drinking Guinness, popping into pubs, and enjoying the music of a beautiful Irishman who sang and played guitar at the Oliver St. John Gogarty Pub (Including Brown-Eyed Girl, Galway Girl, the Rattlin’ Bog, and Take Me Home, Country Roads – check out the Spotify Playlist above for full versions of the Irish Songs we heard). It was a true Dubliner day. (It was the Fourth of July, so try and see what we ate to celebrate)

Pictures: Day Nineteen

Today was a free day, meaning we did not have anything in particular planned. Carson opted to hang at the Cahernane house (who can blame him?) while Jake, mom, and I went to tour the Muckross House. It was in great condition with a bunch of old furniture, amazing woodwork, paintings, and history. While we were there, they had misplaced the resident cat, Lord Percival, among the antique furniture, and a worker came by making meowing sounds. Also, as our guide showed us these standing little square screens in the parlor, we learned where the term “saving face” came from; back in the day, when ladies desired luminous pale skin, they would put wax on their face (which somehow led to paleness??). While sitting by the fire, they would place screens between their faces and the heat to prevent melting the wax, thus “saving face.” Who knew?

After our tour, we grabbed Carson and stopped for lunch at a lakeside hotel with a view of the mountains; it also had a small ruin in the backyard by the lake. Ruins in Ireland are apparently like McDonald’s in America: they are around every corner. We then were DYING for clean clothes, so we found a laundromat in downtown Killarney. Right next door, serendipitously for us nerds, was a small pub called “The Shire,” with a whole Lord of the Rings theme. So after putting in our laundry and shopping around a bit, we stopped in for a pint. They had specialty brews designed just for their pub, with names like “Gandalf’s Ale” and “Frodo’s Lager.” I had a hobbit-sized half pint of Frodo’s Lager, and it was one of the best beers I’ve ever had. The boys tried it and agreed. They had Gandalf’s Ale, which was similar to a Guinness but less creamy and with a different aftertaste; also delicious. But Frodo won the day.

We adjourned to the Cahernane house for coffee and relaxing (and blogging for me, as my constant struggle for time to blog and internet connection continued). Every day, as you may have noticed, we took pictures of some new feature of the Cahernane house and the sheep in the backyard. Carson had a sheep interaction where one sheep was outside the fence and panicked when he saw the approaching human, and promptly got his head stuck in the fence. Poor guy. For dinner and evening activities, we had booked tickets to a show called the “Spirit of Ireland” which features traditional Irish music and dance. We walked down the road to the Gleneagle hotel and conference center, where we ate our included meal in haste to try to get seats right at 8:30 before the 9 o’clock show. The lady at the front desk warned us the room fills up before the show, so we were panicked about not getting good seats to see the Irish spectacular. Mom and I walked in the room and she grabbed my arm and started dying laughing; there were maybe five people. We had no problem getting seats. The show turned out to be amazing, despite the emptiness; it turns out two tour buses couldn’t make it due to dinner running late, so the show usually does sell out and fill up. It just happened we were attending the anomaly. Maybe our lowered expectations caused us to really enjoy the show, but the dancers blew us away with their lively jig of whirring legs and tapping feet and still upper bodies. The floor of the stage literally shook sometimes as they stomped their steel toes shoes. There also was a boy that could not have been more than twelve years old, who moved his legs so fast it was a blur; he was apparently a two time world champion of dance. I believe it. The band and singers were amazing as well, with guitars, violins, flute, keyboard, accordions, and some Irish drum I’d never seen before. They played some songs we recognized, such as a few bars of Whiskey in the Jar. We clapped along and had a great time; the show was such a cultural experience, we absolutely loved it!

Pictures: Day Eighteen

On Day Eighteen, we scheduled a tour of the Ring of Kerry, which included a few towns around the county of Kerry; it’s a beautiful drive, and the terrain goes from coastal beaches to the Killarney national park to charming little villages. We had a fabulous driver named Barry O’Rourke (who we highly recommend, his company is Classic Ireland Guided Tours) who was a treasure trove of information about the area, and was a very skilled driver that could navigate the often treacherous and narrow roads that one must travel on the ring (aka we couldn’t have done it without maybe going down a cliff). He stopped at a ton of scenic overlooks, with beautiful views of the mountains, water, and islands.

He recommended that we do the “Skellig Experience,” a little museum sort of establishment on Valencia Island where you can learn about the rocky islands (skelligs) in the surrounding ocean. We are so glad we took his advice, because it held one of our favorite surprises of the trip. We watched a quick film about how monasteries were built on the cliffs back in the day as a sort of retreat for monks who wanted to be secluded and challenged in a rough terrain. (As a side note, one of the workers there paused us after the film and asked if we would watch his little daughter perform her Irish Jig, which was adorable.) As we went back in the exhibition, I was looking at the pictures and the replicas of the monasteries and was like, “Haha, that looks a lot like the last scene in The Force Awakens,” and was thinking how the bearded/robed monk mannequin looked like Luke Skywalker (because Star Wars references are always somewhere in my peripheral mind). Then we come to find out that – lo and behold – Skellig Michael was exactly where that scene was filmed. Our boy J.J.* had great scenery taste and picked an actual monastic ruin for the Jedi temple. #NerdAlert. I bought a shirt to commemorate the experience, and yes, it’s Luke Skywalker holding a Guinness with a puffin perched on BB-8.

So we of course took pictures with Skellig Michael in the distance and reenacted the scene as best we could with an I-phone instead of a lightsaber. “A” for effort! It was extremely windy, if you are wondering why I look like a cross between Medusa and Cousin It in these photos. After taking our pics, we stopped for lunch at a place called the Blue Bull per Barry’s suggestion, which served delicious brown bread and great seafood chowder. There was also a dude with a goat outside; apparently livestock pets are a thing here, since at one of our scenic stops there was a guy with a fox, goat, and dog just chilling for the tourists. We drove through Killarney National Forest, which definitely looked like it could be in Lord of the Rings; it’s full of lakes, waterfalls, and green moss covered trees. I’d love to do the Ring of Kerry again someday, and maybe do a boat tour in the lakes! Barry also drove us by the Muckross House, one of the most authentic old estates still intact, as well as Ross Castle, a restored tower castle, so we could know where they were located if we wanted to tour them later (we did!).

We said goodbye to Barry and took a breather at our beloved Cahernane hotel, then went into town again for dinner, eating at a place called Mac’s. It was another great meal, where Jake got Irish lamb in a puff pastry. All the cheese and meat are delicious in Ireland; my personal favorite is goat’s cheese (but after smelling that guy’s goat I was a little worried about it changing my tastebuds). We ended the day by poking in a few shops, where Carson almost bought a stylish wool hat. He missed his calling as a model. We also stopped by an ice cream shop called Murphy’s, where we had sticky toffee pudding ice cream, because STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING ice cream. It was amazing. The workers there were a bunch of young girls who were hilarious, and tried to get us to pronounce traditional Gaelic Irish names. We absolutely butchered them, and they were laughing so hard.

*JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens.

Pictures: Day Seventeen

Today, we left the busy city of Dublin to travel to the Irish countryside, namely Killarney. Easier said than done, since we rented a car to get there. GASP! Left side of the road driving! Driver seats on the right side of the car! Generally, an American driver doesn’t stand a chance. We sacrificed Jake as tribute. We piled into a “Renault” (what even type of car is that?) and after confusing the driver and passenger seats, thereby unintentionally playing musical car doors, we set off. Jake luckily responds to stress with humor, and thus pulled out of the parking lot into traffic with a yell of “BLEAHHH!”that resembled a moose call. He was a fabulous driver, mainly because we are still alive and the Renault is in better shape than the Death Cube van was. (We may have lost a hubcap on that one. Videos coming.) Jury’s out on what shape we (or the car) would be in if I drove.

On the way to Killarney, we stopped at a site called the Rock of Cashel, a ruin that holds a cathedral, tower, and a cemetery. Highlight: kids rolling down the grass hill. (Video here) We also had lunch in the town, where I tried potato and lovage soup. It was GREEN which was so exciting and Irish. And delicious! Lovage, if you are asking, is “a large edible white-flowered plant of the parsley family” according to the Googles. We then finished our drive to charming Killarney, and as we pulled up to our hotel, it was truly one of those “woah” moments of the trip. The Cahernane House Hotel captivates upon first sight, and upon further inspection, is just magical. It, of course, used to be a manor home, and now has been built up and added on to, creating a hotel. Favorite features: a glass atrium complete with fountain, balconies, clawfoot tub, mahogany cellar bar, a tree swing, fabulous omelettes, and SHEEP in the backyard. Such sheep! Much bleating! Very pastoral!

We went into town for dinner and hit up a pub called Murphy’s, where we got Irish Stew, beers, and more delicious soup and brown bread (a homemade specialty at many of the Irish restaurants). The town had fun flags strewn across the streets and lots of little shops and restaurants. It was an absolutely charming day and we anticipated a great time in Kerry county!