When we saw my cousin (second-cousin-once-removed) he asked when the last time we’ve been home was. It was too cute.
Ah, Ireland. While not quite as magical as my first trip over, still a wonderful experience with many lasting memories. I kind of invited myself on this trip when I learned that 3 of my aunts were planning a trip with 1 of my cousins and I thought, “Hey…I have nothing better to do.” (Therein lies the perk of being a trailing spouse.)
The trip started a little rocky. I was flying from Aberdeen to Dublin and then taking a bus to Galway where I’d meet up with the crew. At Aberdeen after watching everyone walk through security with shoes on, I left mine on only to be told to take me off. I guess boots are different? Then I wasn’t allowed to use by big ole plastic bag for my liquids (because, holy hell I carried on my luggage for an international flight!) I had to use a tiny one AND it had to zip- so my shaving cream got tossed. Who needs to shave when you’re just with family anyway? Then I didn’t take the iPad out so my purse had to be rescanned with the iPad and residue tested for some reason. Then I set off the metal detector- the first time in like 5 years and I had a veerrrrrry thorough pat down. It was like my first time flying…though it really wasn’t at all. Here’s the issue: all airports don’t follow the same standards.
Anyway, I got on my little propeller 40-person max (including crew and pilots) plane AND managed to stuff my suitcase overhead (the smallest I own is NOT small to EU standards). Flight was a little delayed and I almost missed my bus, but it all worked out. I used Go Bus to Galway from Dublin Airport and then later from Cork to Dublin Airport for the return. There are trains, but from what I could tell they were more money, took the same time, and didn’t drop you off at the airport but somewhere else in Dublin. I had a great Go Bus experience- free WiFi and decent seats. I would definitely do it the same way again.
Here was the trip recap:
Monday: Arrive, I missed the Cliffs of Mohr since I came into Dublin but my relatives hit that up. Late dinner in Galway. Bed.
Tuesday: One of my Aunt’s is a devout Catholic so we spent our limited time in Galway to checking out some churches. We did St. Nicholas Collegiate Church and the Galway Cathedral. It was a pretty nice day so there streets and town square was packed, and there was an abundance of Americans, specifically Penn State Alum due to the upcoming game.
Next we headed to Knocknagoshel. This is where my great grandma was born and where some of my relatives still reside. It is a very, very small town and we actually couldn’t find the house. We ended up “in town” where we saw a man painting a fence. We asked if he knew where Mary lived, and even though he had never been there, he knew the approximate location. There was no physical address; these streets had no name. (Cue U2) In a thick, Irish accent, he gave us directions. I jotted down whatever words I could understand. We smiled at him blankly. He repeated instructions and I tried to grab some more words. We smiled at him blankly. It was then that he said something that vaguely, kinda, sorta sounded like do you want to follow me. We jumped all over that. Then we followed him on roughly a 15-minute ride with hard turns, dirt roads, up hills, through intersections, and all without a single road sign. At one point he pulled over and a woman came out of the house, “Ye got the Yanks?” Word had spread that the Yankees were coming home. She pointed him in the right direction and soon we were there. We thanked him graciously, and as he walked up to the house to say hello he called to Dennis (my second cousin-once removed) and said “Got your yanks, I think they’re deif.” At least he just said we were deaf and not dumb, which we surely appeared.
It was really incredible to see where my great grandma was born. And just take in the drastic difference between my life and the life of my relatives that didn’t immigrate. I get it now. America is called the Promised Land for a good reason. The actual house great grandma was born in, is now more of a storage structure/unused. The land is still owned by the family and newer houses were built to live in. They have beef cows, donkeys, goats, and some horses. We had a nice time with great tea, and to top it off, I got kisses from a 4-month-old little black goat. We then came inside for tea where my cousin noticed the calendar:
Overall, this was the best day of the trip I thought. Afterward we went to Tralee and stayed at Ballygarry House- I would definitely recommend, it’s a nice little hotel with a pretty good restaurant. It’s also next to some trails and a national park, so even though I didn’t, it’d be perfect location for a scenic Ireland run.
Wednesday: We went and explored the Dingle Peninsula. The weather started pretty miserable and at one point when we pulled over to look out over a cliff the wind really picked up with some icy rain. My graceful self took a tumble, tore a hole in my pants, and was a little bloody. Not the best. Then we managed to get in front of the storm and stopped at Inch Beach.
We then headed to Kenmare on the most direct route, which led us straight through Killarney National Park and the McGillycuddy Mountains. This path is actually part of the Ring of Kerry and you’re on the N71, one of the biggest “highways” in Ireland. But I was pretty sure we were going to die. Average speed was about 23 KPH and Aunt S’s knuckles didn’t regain color for hours after that.
Once we finally reached Kenmare, we stayed at the Fairview B&B. I always feel a little awkward at B&Bs…but everyone was really lovely, breakfast was good, and it was nice accommodation.
Thursday: Originally we were going to tour the Ring of Kerry but there was no way we had another trip through the mountains in us. We instead did the peninsula just south of it. We drove around and looked at the beautiful landscape. We did pursue some stones but once the trail led us through a corner of a farmer’s field with rams in it…the aunts said no more. I guess that’s the difference of 30 years give or take?
Friday: We left Kenmare and headed to the Mizen Head and Mizen Head Signal Station. This is Ireland’s most southwesterly point and you walk out to the very edge, over a crazy arched bridge in between the cliffs, with the winds blowing into your face. It was pretty incredible. Then we headed to Cobh to stay for the last two nights.
Saturday: We started the day checking out the Cobh Heritage Center in their old restored train station. It’s a pretty good museum and not only did I learn a lot about the Titanic (this was the last stop before heading to America), I learned more about the immigration process in general, and the additional tragic disaster of Cobh’s Lusitania. And the added bit of nostalgia because my great grandma did in fact set sail for America from Cobh on a White Star Line Ship. Thankfully, not the Titanic or Lusitania.
We then checked out St. Coleman’s Cathedral. We walked up just in time for a little free tour. But Cobh is super small with about 5 restaurants and not really any little shops. It seems there is a lot of opportunity to build up the tourist industry.
Sunday: I got on a bus back to Dublin and my flight home was on time.
My food expectations, while not high in the gourmet sense, were apparently much higher than Ireland offers. I was looking for hearty stews and shepherds pie. Only once or twice were any of these things even mentioned, and overall every one of them needed salt. Had some decent duck and salmon and I know no one goes to Ireland for the food….but I felt there was a severe lack of stews and shepherds pie. But if you see Guinness and Beef pie- definitely order it, just make sure you have a saltshaker.
While I plan my future trip taking E to the motherland, I would definitely do Galway and I want to see the Cliffs of Mohr and Blarney Castle. I’ll see the family if they’ll have me. I’ll try the Ring of Kerry, find some stones, hike a little and definitely go back to Mizen Head. I think Cobh is great for a day trip and I’d do the museum again, as well as the Titanic Experience museum but I wouldn’t stay the night there. And you definitely need a few days in Dublin. This trip won’t happen for a few years but E definitely needs to see Ireland before we’re sent back to America.