Even though we've loved our other travels, something about Ireland really touched our hearts. Surely, it could have been the astounding beauty from the city to the country to the coast, but I think it may have had something to do with the familiarity. They speak English (with an accent I could listen to all day!), the signs are in English, the parking spots actually fit full size cars AND they have stores and restaurants that we've all heard of before, including, yes, Starbucks!!! Really, though, between the beauty and the friendliest people we have encountered, we felt incredibly lucky to be there and, truly, right at home!
Anyways, we (us and the Akers family, another chaplain and family who got here when we did and have become fast friends) flew from Frankfurt to Dublin where our gorgeous apartments awaited. I found these apartments (as well as the ones in Pisa and Paris) on Trip Advisor for 80 euro per night and they were truly gorgeous. Large, full of amenities, including a working fireplace, and right down the hall from each other -- how fun!
We got in toward evening the first night so many things were closed. However, the Guinness Brewery, considered one of the 7 Wonders of Ireland (truly!), was open so we took a tour and really had a good time. Not only was it informative, but the building was beautiful and the history was fun. Did you know that the original maker of Guinness signed a 9000 year lease for the brewery location? Really! So, if you ever want to see it yourself, it will still be there! Yes, the tour does include a "free perfectly poured stout," which all the adults tried. I'm sorry to say that I've never liked beer and I still feel the same way. Still, it was fun!
The next day we took a 12-hour EXCELLENT coach tour to the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle and the city of Cork. Our tour guide was fantastic! He talked to us about the history of Ireland, their traditions, and about the countryside as we drove. We passed a field with a large, round grouping of trees and he thrilled the kids by telling that it was a fairy ring! Truly, you'll see these along the countryside just taking up space in the fields but the farmers will not cut them and use the land because they believe they'll anger the fairies and the fairies will take revenge on their crops! Fun! He also told us all the tales about our destinations and even treated us to authentic Irish tunes! It was remarkable.
Our first stop, The Rock of Cashel, is also one of the 7 Wonders of Ireland and it's easy to see why when you get there. The building, the cemetery and the scenery are simply astounding and the grounds even hold the true cross used to mark the true St. Patrick's grave.
From there, on to Blarney Castle and, yes, we kissed the stone and received the gift of gab (hence, this long post!!). It was really fun! And any Harry Potter fans might be interested to know that the Poison Garden out back, as well as some of the castle, can be seen in the Harry Potter movies!
The next day we visited a bit of Dublin including the famous Temple Bar section and city central, then off to the coast of Howth. That was amazing! I'll let the pictures tell that story. Suffice to say, we all decided we'd live there in a minute!
Worth mentioning, also, is that Ireland has a rich history and you can learn much about it at the Kilmainham Prison, where we visited our last day. This prison can be seen in many movies, including "In the Name of the Father." Also worth mentioning, is that pubs are awesome! We had a few meals in pubs and they were so homey, warm and welcoming, not to mention that they served incredibly yummy food in incredibly large portions!
As you can tell, we had such a good time!