Sunday, March 27, 2016

Road Trippin'

After spending nearly a week in Dublin, the time came to travel around the beautiful country to explore other parts of Ireland. My best friend Casey had a friend coming from the United States to visit for a couple of days and to make the most out of the journey, he rented a car and we had plans to travel around Ireland for 3 days. And by plans I mean we would book where we were staying the day before arriving at the destination. This was contrary to most of the trip planning I do where I have the reservations to stay at hostels close to a month in advance but I liked and embraced the idea of spontaneous traveling around a country in a small 2016 Peugeot hatchback. Bright and early Sunday morning at 8:00am, we woke up and we're off. Our first destination was the Ring of Kerry, a cool 4 hours away in the very Southwest tip of Ireland. It was on a list of the 10 Best Places in Ireland to visit so we knew we had to make the journey there at some point. One of the best parts about having a car rather than riding a coach bus was the ability to stop whenever. And by this I mean that when we saw a picture perfect moment, we could pull over on the side of the road, stretch our legs, and snap some pics. While getting close to the Ring of Kerry, we saw a beautiful mountain range with a stream leading up to it. The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the panorama turned out surprisingly well.

Some peninsula on the south-western tip of Ireland
We continued on our drive to the lodging which took us to a small town of (according to the B&B owner) just 1200 people. There wasn't much in the town, just a few bars and some small shops but most places were closed given it was Palm Sunday and Ireland tends to follow old traditions. We finally arrived at the Ocean View Bed and Breakfast around 4pm. The owner was (ironically) an older American lady who had moved to Dublin just 4 years ago, we think after retiring. She recommended we go check out this old castle and we took her up on it. It was really cool to explore this old castle that was once used by settlers to stay on the lookout for oncoming invaders and as the owner of the hostel put it, "If they saw the invaders coming from a far, they would finish their beers, and prepare to die because they really had no weapons to defend themselves with!"
Forgot to take a picture of the castle itself but this is the view from the top
By the time we were done exploring the castle, we decided to call it a day and head back to the B&B. Since there wasn't much night life in the nearby town, we stayed in for the night and placed a few card games in our room. In the morning, we woke up around 9am and had an amazing home-cooked breakfast with pancakes, bacon, and eggs. This was a nice treat for us for once given that when we travel, we normally only stay in hostels (which give you a piece of toast for breakfast) to save money. We were on the road by 10:15 en route to Connemara National Park which was north of Galway, Ireland, about 4 hours away from the Ring of Kerry. The drive to the park was unbelievably beautiful; an open road with large mountains surrounding it on both sides, along with lakes, grassy plains, and TONS of sheep. We stopped quite a few times to try to pet a sheep (it had been Laurel's goal since coming to Ireland) and surprisingly enough, they are very hard pet because they always run away. I have a few videos of us trying to pet the sheep which will surface at a later date.

We finally got Connemara National Park and took one of the hiking routes that they had up to a great lookup view where the Atlantic Ocean could be seen and the surrounding landscape was breathtaking.
From left: me!, Laurel, Casey, Kelly, Alex

Around 5pm, we decided to head back to Galway which was an hour away. We arrived around 7pm, ate dinner, and headed to our hostel to get settled. We went out that night and had a craic at the main pub in Galway called the Quays that my cousin Brendan who studied in Galaway for a semester had recommended. The next morning, we woke up bright and early around 6:30am in order to drive to the Giant's Causeway by early afternoon given it was a 4 hour journey. Before arriving at the Causeway, we stopped at the Dark Hedges, a beautiful avenue of beech trees thought to be one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. It was also a feature scene in the popular tv show, Game of Thrones.
It looks way cooler in person, the wide angle GoPro makes the trees look farther away from each other than they really are
Finally, we arrived at the Giant's Causeway! I had already been there but it was one of my favorite sites in Ireland so I was excited to have the chance to see it again.

At around 3pm, we drove home in order to get home in time to get settled and take Alex out one last time before his flight back to the US on Wednesday morning. It felt like the longest drive of all of them, although it was about the same distance as all the other drives.

And so finally our 3 day road trip was coming to a close. Everyone else fell asleep for most of the ride home but I stayed awake to keep the driver company because I know how hard it is to drive when you're tired and everyone else is asleep. 3 days, 1400 kilometers, and still no one got tired of each other. It was incredibly successful given the amount we traveled and as passengers of the car, it was agreed that we only had to pay for gas which came out to be about 15 Euro a person for the entire trip, an amazing deal considering everywhere we traveled.
Gas: 15 Euro
Gas station sandwich on the go: 6 Euro
Memories to last a lifetime: Priceless 


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