Saturday, August 23, 2014

Goodbye Ireland, Its Been Grand!

It has been a tiring week, emotionally and physically. Running around, packing, movers, hotels, flights, taxis. Monday our furniture went away, we finished packing our suitcases, and we moved to a hotel. Tuesday our belongings were packed up and we wrapped up some things around town. The cleaners also started at the house. Wednesday the cleaners finished and we handed our keys over. Our lovely landlord brought gifts for the kids, it was very sweet. On Thursday, me, my wife, and our two kids, two cats in crates, and 21 things (11 checked bags, 2 car seats, stroller, 7 carry-ons) got in a shuttle and traveled to the airport. It all went very smoothly! We had some time for breakfast before our 6 hour flight. The flight went so fast, I barely finished a movie. We then collected all the items and Nolan and I got in a van for Rhode Island. Kacey and Liana got a car and came down after us. I got some food and litter for the cats and let them investigate the apartment, and we got some Panera to eat before we all crashed around 8pm.

We are quite sad to leave Ireland. And I can't even really describe it much right now. But, here is a list of things I will miss, and some things I am looking forward to back in the good ole US of A.


Roundabouts - Love them, and the few in the US don't seem to function correctly.
Easy flights to Europe - We have seen so much history, culture, scenery, and food, we are very fortunate.
Dun Laoghaire Presbyterian Church - Such a loving and well-ministered place!
People's Park on Sundays - Even when it was raining, I looked forward to heading down the hill.
Guinness - I never had a Guinness before entering Ireland, and I had only recently started to enjoy darker beer before moving to Ireland. And as I tried many stouts and porters, there is a reason for the reputation of Guinness. From the tap. In Ireland. It is just good.
Fuel prices that never change - You never really had to worry about the price of diesel, it is always expensive.
Coke made with real sugar - I love coke, and because of that I don't allow myself to drink it very often. It is a special treat once or twice a month. But it tastes so much better in Europe! I don't think I will drink it in the states unless I find real sugar coke.
Saying "grand" and "brilliant" and "thanks a mil" all the time - Common Irish phrases that you find yourself saying, because everyone there says them.
Father Ted - Great comedy from the late 90s, nice and dry. Find some DVDs and check it out!
Safe power outlets - Great, safe design that I will miss.
Brennans Bread - Delicious, healthy sandwich bread. Nothing like it in the states.
Friendly people everywhere - I think the percentage of friendly people is higher here than most places.
Our home - This was our home, full of wonderful memories, in a lovely suburb town of a lovely city, and will always be cherished.

Looking Forward To...

On-demand hot water and house heat - Imagine wanting to take a random shower at 3pm in the afternoon. No, wait! First turn on the hot water, then wait a while. Was the house cold yesterday yet warm today? Tough. There is no thermostat.
Seasons - I miss fall. And snow.
Mexican food - Where it does exist in Ireland, it is a huge disappointment.
Inexpensive fuel - DON'T complain about the cost of gas. It costs less than half of Europe.
Handbell choir - Presbyterian churches don't do this in Ireland. I miss playing.
Understanding all the dialects of the land - Sometimes, we just plain couldn't understand someone from the far north or far west or far south. But here, I can understand people from all over the country.
Good beef - The Irish love their beef. But it just flat out doesn't taste as good as US beef!
Sinks that mix the water for you in a single faucet - Want to wash your hands with warm water? Too bad!
Turn on red - Turning left on a red is illegal in Ireland, no matter how clear the view is. I already enjoy getting to turn right on red here!
Showers that don't open to the bathroom - I miss shower curtains! No more 10% of your shower water ending up on the floor.
Big, fast washer and dryer - Imagine being able to do only two very small loads of laundry a day. Or for my european friends, imagine doing the weeks laundry in just a few hours once a week!

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Leaving the airport

Friday, August 08, 2014

County Donegal

We finally got up to County Donegal for bank holiday weekend. We were once again fortunate to dodge a lot of rain (started while in the car, stopped when we arrived). This is a beautiful area and due to its proximity from Dublin, most tours stay away.

Friday afternoon we drove to Belleek, a small town on the Ireland/NI border that is known for its pottery. We booked a little bar B&B there and then drove to Donegal town for dinner. I thought more of the town was on the water, but the bay barely makes it in to the town. After a brief walk through town, we ate at a restaurant that was top rated, but it really wasn't any good (except for their sticky toffee pudding). We then walked out by the docks and ended up at the old Friary and Abbey Cemetery. This was a pretty area against the setting sun.

The next morning we got up and went next door to the Belleek Pottery factory for a tour. It was a nice little tour and Kacey even got away with a little something extra. We then stopped by the SuperValu to grab some lunch food to eat while driving to Slieve League Cliffs. We also stopped at Wool N Things in Donegal, and the Donegal Craft Village, for Kacey to check out the goods.

We got to Slieve League and the parking was a little confusing. There was a small area for parking, packed with a few cars waiting to park. There was a small road that looked blocked off, possibly for services. After we got parked, we noticed a few cars going in and out, but we started the walk. After a tough walk along the road, we realized at the end that we could have driven and saved the legs. The views were quite nice. I only walked about half way up the hill because it didn't really look like the views of the cliffs would get better. Our next thoughts were to try to drive part of Rick Steves drive near Bunbeg and Dunfanaghy but people were tired and it was raining pretty good, so by Glenties, we changed course to Letterkenny for our hotel.

The next day our first stop was Glenveagh National Park to see the castle. We arrived right after a few tours did so we had quite a wait to get in. The castle is small but has very nice grounds and great views on the lake. The rain started right as we got in the car for our drive to Bunbeg. The fog was way too thick to see Mount Errigal, but I am sure the west side of it is quite beautiful. We got to Bunbeg and what we thought was town was quite small as expected. The only place we saw for lunch was a little slow and as we left town, we saw that town was a bit bigger than we thought. We drove out to the beach and once again it was a stunning view. The drive north was nice and scenic, and the rain kept trying to come, but never too much. We stopped at Cnoc Fola, which is the Hill of Blood or Bloody Foreland due to the color of the heather at sunset. We stopped at the Dunfanaghy Work House, but didn't go in as we wanted to get to a couple other places still.

Next we drove out to Horn Head. The views here are pretty nice, even when it is trying to rain. We also drove over to the WWII shelter, which can be seen to the west of Horn Head. Our next stop was just outside of Derry, an old ring fort. Grianan Ailligh is a 2000 year old fort (restored over 100 years ago) with grand views of the hillsides all around. After letting the kids run a bit, we drove in to Derry to our B&B. We drove around the old walled town and the murals a bit to see them without having to walk around in the rain.

The next morning we drove around the murals again and took some decent pictures, but we had to get on the road to make it to Malin Head, and then home. Originally we had hoped to drive the Inishowen 100, but we knew we didn't have for it. We decided to drive straight to Malin and see a few things up there. We started at Five Finger Strand. This is a big, beautiful beach area where low tides reveal what look like fingers. We played here a bit and collected shells. Then we drove to Malin Head. This was getting a bit crowded for parking, but we got in. Nolan and I hiked down toward the Head point. What I learned is that the marker is actually located on a set of rocks separated from the mainland by a raging ocean and steep cliffs. We were fortunate that the weather was absolutely gorgeous this day and the view and hike were nice. Next we drove south on the Inishowen 100/Wild Atlantic Way toward Malin town to find lunch. There were more nice views along the way. We stopped at this place that looked like a community center that was also serving lunch. We stopped at Northern Bites and it was nice with good people and information. We learned about a few other sites to see, so we set out with new GPS coordinates and sites.

We now knew where Wee House of Malin was, and it was close. So we saw this little cave and old cottage, with again, nice views of the ocean. We also set out to see a few high crosses on our way south, as well as an old stone circle. The Bocan Stone Circle was in a guy's field, and we parked in the mud. We then set out for a high cross, but the GPS coordinates led to some guy's field with no cross. Next we drove for Carrowmore Cross and found Cloncha Cross and church, the one we couldn't find! Too funny. Carrowmore crosses are just in a field with no where to stop really, but we did anyway. We set out for home via Moville, where we stopped for Cooly cross, in a little cemetery with a few sheep grazing inside. They were all great to see and learn about.

Donegal is beautiful and not too busy due to being far from tours and Dublin. I now see why the Wild Atlantic Way is quickly becoming quite popular.

Pictures can be found here.