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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Family Time in Ireland - Reaching The End of Our Adventure (Days 19-20)

We left Athlone today to finish the trip back to Donabate but first, we were going to enjoy a welcomed treat - a visit with family.  Caitlin and Molly were going to meet and spend time with cousins.  In Ireland!  

We pulled into the cutest village (is there any other kind in Ireland?!) and first picked up a gift.  Rob wanted to know what I was doing out of the car when he returned.  Taking a pic, of course.  I couldn't resist.  I gotta get some hanging baskets when we return home.  To inevitably kill.  Not on purpose though.  

Still in Ireland! Finding cousins! — in Lucan, Dublin.

A great day! We enjoyed good company, good food, and good play!  My irish sister opened her house, her family, and her heart to us.  We came to see Ireland, but what makes this trip so special is the roots of family.  Our visit was too short, but thoroughly full of connections. 

After a boring drive back to Donabate on the most boring road in Ireland.  Hahahahaha, we were on the M-some_number boring freeway with MULTIPLE lanes.  Rob was clearly more comfortable as he drove much faster than usual.  I think he was even whistling through smiles at the lack of stone walls, sheer cliffs, oncoming traffic in his lane, and sheep.  I, meanwhile, died of boredom.    

The next day, we returned to our starting point - Donabate Beach.  The first place we stopped, and the last place.  This time though, we enjoyed it injury-free.  Whew!

Last day in Ireland! Spending it with Granny! — at Donabate Beach.

Good night Ireland! Tomorrow we go home!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

One More Stop! Athlone, Ireland (Day 18)

We left the comfort of Inishmore, Aran Islands by plane and arrived quickly (8 minutes) back at Connemara Airport.  Our rental car was still there and so was all its contents.  I have to say it was very easy to travel to the Aran Islands by plane via Connemara Airport.  Someday, I would like to see and stay on the other two islands.

Today, we were headed back to base camp at Castle Chic (Donabate), but we were not just driving back across the mainland in one 3 hour trip.  Nope, we had plans to see some sights midway and overnight in Athlone.  We planned to first go to a petting farm and then to see the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise as our last big hurrah on this Chic Family Road Trip.


Farms and fairy trails. My girls are right at home. We are making our way back around to our starting point. Mentally preparing for our return with mixed feelings. — at Glendeer Pet Farm.

My kids had a hard time leaving the puppies and kittens! They sure were darn adorable. The puppies, not my kids.  Molly has decided that she wants a farm when she grows-up, so we will soon have plenty of animals galore.

You are probably thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of pics of fairy doors." Well, Caitlin insisted on a pic with EVERY single one that she found. All 5,482,365 of them. So, I've actually spared you.

We ended our visit with lunch at the cafe located in Glendeer Pet Farm.  This is more than just a petting farm.  There's also a playground (with obstacle course and maze), picnic area, and of course, the fairy forest.  It's located off the M6, so was very convenient for our journey back east.  We continued from here to the nearby Clonmacnoise.

Ending our sightseeing the proper way - monastic ruins. Mid-6th century early Christian site boasting round towers and high crosses among its treasures. — in Clonmacnoise, Offaly, Ireland.

This was a treat! Super cool site that sits along the Shannon River. There is lots to see amongst the ruins - high tower, cathedral ruins, high crosses, and grave stones.  We knew we were overnighting in Athlone, so just took our time wandering.  

We could easily have made it back to Donabate in a couple hours, but were glad to add another stop as we could all sense the end of our trip approaching.  We stayed at Alverna House and it was perfect as they are a family with young children.  My girls instantly bonded with their daughter.  

We went into Athlone village for dinner.  I had read in one of my guide books that Athlone has THE best thai restaurant in Ireland.  Well, that is a pretty big claim so we decided to check it out for ourselves.  I will say that the service was great (the staff made it fun!) and we really did enjoy ourselves, but as we left, Rob said, "it would have been better if we hadn't heard the claim."  

We went back to Alverna House and the kids enjoyed playing with the homeowners' daughter, while Rob and I relaxed with a few rounds at their pool table.

Before leaving in the morning, we had a lovely breakfast and the kids got to play some more.  But, it turns out this wasn't our last stop.  We saved the best for last!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Experience of a Lifetime - Inishmore, Aran Islands, Ireland (Days 16-17)

The Aran Islands are three islands - Inis Mor (the largest), Inis Meain, and Inis Oirr (the smallest).  I would like to see and stay on all three.  For our first trip, we chose the largest.  Our stay on Inishmore left me with the most memorable experience of our whole trip.  I will cherish this lifetime memory for all my days.

Ermagawd - we are still alive! I'm gonna need the nearest pub now! — at Inishmore.

This was awesome!!!!  It was easily done - Connemara Airport is tiny and convenient.  Free parking for the rental car.  We left our luggage behind and just carried backpacks for the two nights we would be staying on Inishmore.  I had pre-booked our flight, so we checked in and waited for them to call us.  They told us our assigned seats as we walked out to the plane.  We were all so excited and just a little nervous as we squeezed in.  The 8 minute flight was over before we knew it (it seemed like a LONG 8 minutes DURING the flight - HAHAHAHA!).  It was amazing flying over - words cannot describe it.  I know you can get here by ferry, but I would come by flight EVERY time.  When you land, there's a shuttle available.  We had a short wait for the next flight to arrive with our backpacks.  I guess we were a little heavy on our plane.  

We are on the Aran Island of Inishmore. It's very comforting even in its isolation. The cliffs are extremely daunting. Staying in a stone house built in 1800s. Exploring a 9th century church in our backyard. — at Kilmurvey House.

Kilmurvey House

Yep, ruins in the backyard. EVERY backyard. Told you so.

We stayed at Kilmurvey House and I would highly recommend it.  One of our favorite places!  The owner, Treasa, was one of the nicest people I have ever met in my entire life.  She went out of her way to make us feel at home and came across so genuine and kind-hearted.  She also made a sit-down dinner our first night and it was the BEST salmon with the most incredible sauce that I have ever had in my entire life.  Can you tell I was satisfied to the max?  

We chose Kilmurvey House because we wanted to be near Dun Aengus - the cliffside fort.  It was not important to us to be near the pubs and "action".  We were here to experience a simple life of past.  The area does get busy during the day, but after about 3pm, it is ALL yours.  And, since it doesn't get dark until 11pm, this leaves plenty of time to enjoy, explore, and really feel the treasures of this island.  Kilmurvey House is also about a 5 minute walk from Kilmurvey Beach.

It was raining the evening we arrived, but we still couldn't resist going up to the fort.  You have no charge if you stay at Kilmurvey House.  You can also come up after hours of the visitor's center.

Landscape is very much like The Burren.

The walk from Kilmurvey house up to Dun Aengus.

Okay, if you have been following my blog from the beginning, then you know that one of the things I rave about Ireland is the freedom to make your own judgement call regarding your personal safety.  Areas that I had expected to roped off, fenced off, Warning, Danger, signs galore - nope, just go ahead and skirt that cliff.  Get your pic, don't slip.  And, it's been refreshing.  BUT.  BIG but.  We should NOT have been allowed to enter Dun Aengus on this evening.  I am a little annoyed that the two attendants did not just tell us to come back the next day.  They did give a verbal warning for us to keep our children close as the edge is sheer cliff.  Yes, gotcha, we know.  What we were not prepared for is the powerful winds that pummeled us.  We weren't sure if it was always this windy.  We continued, but couldn't even walk at the top.  I had a strong grip on Molly.  While Rob kept Caitlin near.  At one point, Caitlin's hat blew off and she instinctively turned to chase it.  Rob's arm shot out and grabbed her so superhero fast.  Thankfully.  He actually doesn't have much of a quick reaction time, but thankfully, in the face of truly grave danger, it kicked in.  Shakened and rattled, we were done and headed back down.  I will mention that the waves crashing against the cliff were pretty spectacular.      

She is such a trooper!

Whew! Back down to safety. The girls did great navigating the slippery rocks in the strong winds.  They hardly complained.  Much.

So, we decided to go check out the church ruins in the backyard of Kilmurvey House.  What a treasure!  There are ruins to explore all over the island.  Make sure you get a map of the points of interest to explore them all.  

This is the market place next to Kilmurvey House. It gets very busy during the day with the daytrippers, but the food is really good.  The kids even got a second order of lasagne.  I may or may not have had two orders of the beef stew. 

We got a ride to the pier (the main area of hustle and bustle for the island) and thought how best can we explore this island?

For families, there is a great playground for the kids. It even has a zipline! Rob and I enjoyed the views while the kids got to do what they do best.  We weren't sure how to get back to Kilmurvey House.  We just sort of stood around the main area.  There were tour buses going by, but we didn't see anything that looked like public transport.  Finally, I told Rob to just wave down the next bus.  Yep, got a ride.  Oh, that's the other thing.  We had planned to get bikes, but after watching the drivers zip by them a little too close and a little too fast for our liking, we decided to pass.  Molly is a new rider.  But, I'm sure even Caitlin might not be comfortable with the close clipping.  

I AM LUCKY DUCKY TO BE ALIVE!!! Rob watched the girls so I could go up solo to Dun Aonghasa - a prehistoric cliff fort 300 feet high from sea built 1100 BC. I crawled on my belly to the edge and peered over. We can go home now. — at DĂșn Aonghasa.

Death grip on my camera, I stretched my arms and took the pic. I safely put my camera away and then peered over the edge. My bravery astounds me.
I'm really not sure the point of the fence. Because, clearly, it looks more dangerous on the other side?! BWAHAHAHA

Yep, I got braver the longer I was up here. 

I crawled on my belly and then rolled over onto my back. The sun in my face. See my bravery. I then rolled over and backed away on all fours away from the edge. I am a changed person. Forever.

Do you beach in the Irish cold sea? We did (some more than others). It was only us. Go figure. — at Inishmore, Aran Islands.

Oh! Forgot we needed to squeeze back into the tin can again for the return trip. Awesome views. Awesome experience. Still the longest 8 minutes, that ended too soon. — at Inishmore, Aran Islands.

Up next: Athlone, Ireland (Day 18)