Monday, May 17, 2010

Donegal is a ball.

This past weekend I headed out to Donegal and Derry with my Irish friend John. I met John through my dear friend Wiz, who's been keeping up a splendid long distance relationship with him for the past year. Power to ya'll! Anyway, he picked me up and we drove to the most northernly point of Ireland, Malin Head, in County Derry. The ride up was sunny, lovely and uneventful. We chatted, got ice cream (a gross strawberry crunch bar for me, white chocolate Magnum bar for him--better choice), and enjoyed the long lasting sunshine. We arrived at our hostel at 9:56, 4 minutes before closing time, and John and I were the only people there! It was slightly eerie, but it was a nice hostel nonetheless. Freezing cold, but lovely. We headed to the local old man pub down the road and enjoyed Guinness, hot whiskey and some truly ridiculous company. We met a lady from Galway who married a Donegal man and has been "trapped" up there ever since. She was SERIOUSLY sloshed and told us how she was with child whilst swinging around a glass of wine. Charrrrming. I hope she was kidding. She also informed us that her husband was two timing her, yet her husband was so drunk he couldn't actually form words. Madness! Then a gnarled old gentleman approached me singing some Irish ballad and then informed me that his wife had died 4 years ago "but you just have to get on with life." He asked to see my hands (I assume to check if they were fit for hard labor), told us how he has 500 sheep with only 5 lamb casualties, a huge house with 9 bedrooms and then lastly told us about his knee and how he broke it in 3 places. And then sang to me again. And may or may not have accidentally brushed up against me and then insisted he wasn't a perverted old man. I'm pretty sure he wanted me to be his new bride, and I'm not sure what I was thinking turning him down. It was a crazy night.

But we slept well that night, made eggs for breakfast and then drove around Malin Head. It's really beautiful and has some amazing views of the Atlantic, though we couldn't see Scotland because of the rain/hail that pelted us for 20 minutes. But after that the weather was quite lovely and sunny. The beaches are gorgeous and the water is so, so blue! We visited Banba's Crown (the actual tip of Ireland) where they used to receive messages from America (or something, sorry the details are fuzzy), the raised beaches where you can apparently search for semi-precious stones, though we didn't find any, the "Wee house" and old church remains--according to legend the wee house (a cave) could hold as many people as would enter and is now a big Christian pilgrimage, drove the Inishowen 100--a lovely drive around the coast, hiked around some cliffs, and I suspect we saw the Devil's Hole, a huge chasm in some cliffs, though I can't be sure. Anyway it was good fun and we found a beautiful beach to walk along on a bay. Yay! Then we stopped into Malin for lunch and continued on to Derry!

Our hostel in Derry (in Northern Ireland) was SUPER super nice. It was basically a house and had the most amazing freshly baked bread. I actually may have eaten half the loaf. Ok so I did, whatever. IT WAS SO FRESH. But we hung around the hostel for a bit and watched some of Snatch. We were sooo tired for some reason--probably all the driving. But then we headed to Flamin' Jacks (?) for dinner and I had a delicious dinner of chicken tandoori and BANOFFIE PIE. It was so delicious and I couldn't stop smiling as I ate it. Then we headed to a cool pub-Peardagh O'Conor's?-and hung around with the locals. I got a Smirnoff Ice-I have no idea why, probably because I was too full for Guinness and drinks were CHEAP-and a Baileys on ice. So gooood. Then we came back to the hostel, watched a little of Superbad (I retreated to our room to read) and fell asleep. HOWEVER, I was awoken by the LOUDEST snoring I have ever had the misfortune to hear. At 5 or 6 in the morning. So I tried to fall back asleep but was too hot and ended up reading Cosmo in the kitchen downstairs, home-baked bread in hand. Eventually we headed out and walked around the wall of Derry, a fairly massive defensive feature that circled the entire city back in the day. It's a bit over a mile long and quite wide. It was interesting to walk along it and read some of the history of the city, but other than that there wasn't a whole lot to do.

So eventually we headed on our merry way, stopped in Buncrana, Bundoran and Ballyshannon for food/pit stops/ice cream/beach walks and stopped in Sligo to visit old W.B. Yeats's grave. Then after some pics stops (heh, get it?), we finally made our way to Tuam, where I met John's family and had a wonderful home cooked dinner. And delicious rhubard pie! And so much tea and good craic. And cows! I got to meet the cattle (he lives on a farm), pet some beauties, AND I RECEIVED SOME COW KISSES!! I ALSO got to sample some very potent poitín watered down with sugar and water. Illegal Irish moonshine! So exciting! My street cred is hitting the roof, I'm tellin ya. I stayed the night, slept in a tad and eventually got a lift back to Gort na Coiribe with his brother.

Such a fun weekend!!!!! Now I just have to start packing, fully enjoy my last few days in Galway, hit up Coole Park and get shepherd's pie and an Irish coffee. MAN I can't believe my time here is coming to a close...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's springtime in Killarney...

with all of the folks at home.

So on a bit of a whim, I decided to go to Killarney with a few friends. I had planned on going for a while, but wasn't sure when I could fit it in. Well, how about Thursday to Saturday? Great. So we took a way-too-early bus to the darling little town, checked into our amazing hostel, the Sugan, which Katie recommended from her dino-roaming days years ago, and walked around the town. The hostel is super cozy and charming, complete with fireplace filled with peat, mugs hanging from the ceiling, and bunches of bunches of homey photographs and paintings hanging on the walls.

So we walked around the town and made our way to the Killarney National Park, where we saw real live deer! and a big castle. We toured Ross Castle and fell in love with the tour guide's lilting Irish voice. Her voice was so silky it was almost creepy, actually. But we headed back, I ate some Goodfellas pizza, and wandered around to see the night life. Or rather, the non-existent night life. The pubs were filled with a more...grandfatherly...crowd, and we decided to find a pack of cards and play rummy all night. It was FANTASTIC and we laughed, cried, drank tea and died. Soo many heart to hearts in that tiny little area. And a lot of laughter. And trolls.

The next day my homegirl companion and I took a boat trip through the lakes with a sweet little old man while the men folk golfed. Our ship, as I like to call it, was more of a row boat that had enough room to hold our bicycles and a few passengers. I even had the honor of hopping out of the sailing vessel onto the grass bordering the lake to pulllll the ship through some rapids at one point. Very exciting! But we made it through after meeting Charlie the tame and ever-present pheasant (heh, heh) and stopped for cupcakes at some Lord's cottage.

Interesting side story: On our walk to the bottom of the mountain, we encountered a large field full of sheep, and naturally we approached it. What happened next is hard to explain. We saw a little lamb galloping towards us, clearly freaking out because it was on the wrong side of the fence. BUT all of the sheep started walking slowly towards us and BLEATING soooo loudly and ridiculously I couldn't help but laugh and be terrified all at once. I could only imagine alien sheep calling their mother ship to come and beam us up, it was so strange. But very entertaining. Check my facebook for a video.

Anyway, then we pushed our bikes 3 miles up a mountain and eureka! We made it to the top! The Gap of Dunloe! It was a lovely view and very scary/fun to bike down the ridiculously steep mountainside. I deffo took mah time and had the breaks on constantly-I didn't want to flip over the handle bar because of some dumb rogue rock! But yes we had a grand time and biked another 26 km back to town after stopping to pet lovely horsies. It was borderline exhausting and my body is currently paying the price for it.

That night I got shepherd's pie (meh) and designer fancy pants ice cream. Apparently they ONLY use the most rare and indigenous cows to Ireland, and there are only 2 herds of them. Weirdoooos. But it was good--REAL legit rum raisin with a crazy ton of rum...yum! Then we headed baaackk to the hostel to continue our game of rummy and chats. So so fun!

Then I came home today, went for a run, got a donut before AND after--don't judge me--and made a yummo dinner of salmon, cous cous and sauteed spinach. Holllla. OH and Wednesday night I went salsa dancing and got up the nerve to ask a few gentlemen to dance with me. I didn't want to just STAND there all night, and I was all dolled up anyway. So I danced a bit and a cute little old man (or so I thought was cute and old) asked me to dance and I said yes. It was cute for about 2 minutes until he wouldn't stop spinning me and swinging me around like a crazy person. He came up to about, oh, I dunno, my shoulder and would spin me around and pull me IN THISCLOSE and rest his bald little head on my collarbone. Whoaa buddy ok there. Then he made me dance with him again and we were THE ONLY PEOPLE on the dance floor. I at least hoped someone would take pity on me and help a sista out, but NO. Oh well, it makes a good story. I guess.

I can't believe I only have 2 weeks left! It's so bittersweet...I am really looking forward to seeing my family and friends from home and school, but I love it here so much! Also, I need some friends in D.C. Forget about trying to make money with a job, just make me some friends! If you know anyone in the area, hoook a sista up!

Katie and Chris's Visit!!!!!

WELL, last week Katie and Chris arrived in Galway, and it was sooooooo fabulous of them to come and visit me! I showed them around town the first day, got McDonagh's fish 'n' chips (oh how I'll miss you!) and got acquainted with the city. And I finally bought a Guinness baseball cap, though it has a slightly wonky brim. Whatever. That night I showed them my humble abode, made them dinner, and we all went into town to check out some pubs. I was very impressed with their ability to stay awake after traveling for so long--we even hit up a bar that had salsa dancing, though we didn't have the proper footwear to engage in said dancing. But it was exciting to watch and I definitely went back the next week..more on that later.

Thursday we walked around campus, got lunch, wandered around some shops and walked through Salt Hill along the ocean. It was a splendid day and I headed home to get my hair did for the Arcadia Farewell Dinner. But before the dinner, a few of my friends came with me to meet K&C at Tig Coili for a pint. So goooood, I'll surely miss that Guinness. But after the dinner (which was lovely), we met them at the Quays, sat for a bit, K, C and I went to get dessert next door, and then met up with the group at Townhouse Bar, which is so awesome. I don't know how I've missed going into it, but every different little nook is a different theme room from a 1950s style house. SoOoOo adorable. After that K&C decided to hit the hay while the youngin's skipped over to Coyotes, a superbly trashy night club. The same place I was in on the celebration of my 21st year. Anyway we danced to bad 90s techno for a bit and promptly headed home.

The next day was supposed to be the Cliffs of Moher trip, but considering it took them 35 minutes to drive to my house (it should've taken 4 min--they got lost) and we took a wrong turn getting there, I was a bit nervous about missing one of the 3 bus rides home. So I opted to stay home while they continued on their journey; good thing as it took them 2 hours to get there, which would've made me miss the bus.

On Sunday I took an early bus to Dublin to take in some of the sights I hadn't seen previously. SO, I started at the Queen of Tarts, a DELIGHTFUL cafe with the best darn scones I've ever had--full raspberries baked in--and got some tea. I visited the Chester Beatty Library and Dublin Castle after my treat; the castle was meh, but the Library was very cool. An American miner left all of his Asian art and bible/Quran collections to Ireland for some reason, and they made a cool museum out of them (which happened to be free). So I checked out snippets of the oldest gospels in the world, learned more about world religions, and generally enjoyed myself. Then I headed to Trinity College and--gasp!--snuck into the Book of Kells. It was really easy, actually. Instead of getting in line to pay 8euro (no way), I decided to look through the gift shop. HOWEVER, in the gift shop is a set of stairs that sort of say "No Entry," but I moseyed on up and found a beautiful library that Belle would've swooned over. Turns out I had found the museum part! I saw cool old books, the super old famous Irish harp, and the Book of Kells! Definitely wasn't worth 8euro to see, but I'm glad I got to see' free! Then I took a DART train to meet K&C at Clontarf Castle (no big deal, we stayed in a castle overnight). However, the directions were RUBBISH, as they always are. But seriously, this time the directions said "Exit the station and at the second traffic light make a right and the hotel is on the left of the roundabout." YET the station exited into a NEIGHBORHOOD. There wasn't even a stop sign that they could've confused with a stop light. So naturally I started walking in the wrong direction, found some people to help me (they were shocked I wanted to WALK to the castle--they didn't understand my desire to save money and just foot it a few miles) and eventually got there. It was loooovely and very cool. We had some drinks, headed to Temple Bar for dinner, had delicious burgers--mine with cashel blue cheese--and hit up the Porterhouse Pub. It was really neat inside and had lots of different homemade brewskies. Yum in my tum. Then we headed back to the castle to all sleep in the king size bed where Katie refused to spoon with me, and slept soundly.

The next day we took a free walking tour of the city, learned about the history of Ireland and saw all the cool sights with a really funny tour guide, stopped for snacks, took a rest and toured the Guinness Warehouse. Then we got dinner at an oh-so-charming establishment, complete with adorable waiter and live music. Katie tried to convince me to sing with him, and I TRIED but I just couldn't remember all the words to Oh Danny Boy. Better luck next time. But we had DELICIOUS "Boxty pancakes," which are basically crepes over goooorgeously cooked steaks. I must say, Katie and Chris spoiled me FAR too much, thank you guys :) Anyway right before dessert, our delightful waiter informed us that all flights out the next day were cancelled. Oopsies.
So they stayed another night in Dublin, and the next morning we went to Christ Church Cathedral where I saw the famous and weird mummified cat and rat, and then we headed to the National Museum to see the bog people from 2500 BC. They were so strange--preserved in the bog for hundreds of years with leathery skin with shocking red hair. Crazy stuff, very cool. Then we stopped in a pub for a pint and I headed home.

It was SUCHHHH a lovely visit, thank you guys so much for coming and spoiling me so so much! Love yaaaaaa :-)