Part two: Crossing off the Counties – Clare and Sligo

An hour and a half later we were wandering around Bunratty Castle and Heritage Park. We climbed narrow staircases, posed on thrones, and toured the replica old village.

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From Bunratty we made our through the narrow, winding roads of County Clare. We stayed in a little village called Ennistymon. The Falls Hotel, perched on a hill with glorious steps leading up to it, had waterfalls and a stream out back and donkeys roaming around the front. We checked in and immediately made our way to the leisure centre. The outdoor jacuzzi was my favourite – surrounded by crisp air, tree branches, and a waterfall. As it lashed rain that night we crossed our fingers and prayed for sunshine for the following day.

The next morning we prepared for the day by overeating at the breakfast buffet – we needed our energy for hiking! As we drove to the Cliffs of Moher the sun broke through the clouds and decided to stay awhile.

Standing 214m (702 feet) at their highest point the Cliffs of Moher stretch for 8 kilometres (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years. (www.cliffsofmoher.ie)

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It was a view that I can’t imagine you would ever tire of. The grande vastness and sickening height made me feel minuscule, while simultaneously filling me with awe at how great our world is and an overwhelming sensation of gratefulness and respect. It is a profound privilege to experience the worlds wonders.

You may knows the Cliffs from Harry Potter or The Princess Bride. The Cliffs of Insanity is an accurate description! I made sure to stay far from the fence free edge and had to clasp on to my neighbour and look away while Steve kept inching closer and closer to “insanity”.

The Cliffs of Insanity!

The Cliffs of Insanity!

With all that fear and bewilderment we worked up an appetite so we headed back to the car park, looked up directions, and put the car in drive. Suddenly some German people started waving at us frantically and yelled at us to stop. “Your tire, it’s flat!” We all climbed out of the car and sure enough the tire is as flat as can be, can’t get any flatter. One tour bus driver hung around and gave us a few helpful hints while the lads changed the tire. The boys got the coat offs, busted out the jack, and  proceeded to change the tire in the middle of the car park. At least it wasn’t raining!

Afterwards we carried on to Doolin, the village famously know for the birthplace of Irish music. We had some tasty fish and image_7chips and the most perfect pint of Guinness I’ve ever had. We also found a man who specializes in tire repairs. It seemed that punctured tires is an incredibly common occurrence in Clare. We came back to Doolin that night to take in some trad music. There were six musicians, all ages, sitting in a booth jamming away. No singing, just the traditional Irish instruments.

The next day we dropped Steve off at the train station and carried on to Sligo. We planned a pit stop in Galway city where we got stuck in major traffic then finally had a quick stroll around. It was interesteing seeing the scenery change from Clare to Sligo, even noticing the differences in the old stone fences. Sligo town is surrounded by lovely mountains (or hills, as we’d call them in Canada). That night we met up with an old friend, Jimmy, who brought us for dinner and then later hosted us at his perfect little bar, Lillies. The following day we met Jimmy and he showed us around the town and gave us a bit of a history lesson. We managed to find the Anglican church that my great, great grandparents were married in.

The church in Sligo

The church in Sligo

Back in Dublin we prepared for a night out in search of live music. We started at The Odeon then wandered further in to town and turned up empty. We decided to swing by Sweeney’s to say hi to Steve. Appearance wise Sweeney’s is a bit of a dive music venue, but it’s incredibly popular and always full of every demographic you can imagine. Dad was instantly a legend for these people. Drunk lads would stumble up to him and make a fuss about his hat. One guy kept complimenting how well dad pulled it off. Another guy kept walking past him, then say something to his friend, then stare at him. This went on until he worked up the courage to ask my dad if he could wear his hat to pose for a picture. My dad said to him very seriously that he couldn’t run off with it, to which he adamantly reassured over and over that he would never, EVER, do such a thing. The moment he had the hat on his head his face lit up and he looked like the happiest person in the world. The guy and his friends then insisted on taking a picture with my dad, going on about how he was the sickest geezer ever. That’s pretty much the gist of my night out “clubbing” with my legend of a father.

Traveling provides perspective and a refreshing change in routine life. We had some hilarious moments along the way and the journey seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.

A quick stop in Galway

A quick stop in Galway

A perfect pint in Doolin

A perfect pint in Doolin

Bunratty folk park

Bunratty folk park

Sligo

Sligo

Siblings...

Siblings…

You may have won this one, but watch out!

You may have won this one, but watch out!

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Dad's birthday cake :)

Dad’s birthday cake 🙂

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That's a wrap.

That’s a wrap.

Part one: Davis family takes on Ireland

There’s a reason why people cite road trips as a priority while traveling. Driving through small winding roads amongst green hills, stone walls and bodies of water. Sparkling sunshine one minute, downpour of rain the next, and double rainbows to follow. There’s something charming about spending hours in a car with friends. Snacks, stories, music and scenery. What more could you want, besides the odd wrong turn, annoying GPS Sally, or accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road.

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I have always dreamed about traveling with my family, and living in Ireland has provided me a way to live that dream.  My dad and older brother Isaac came to visit me for two weeks. I would use the word ‘miracle’ to describe the fact that they were able to make the trip out here. Isaac had just graduated from a Masters program in Ottawa and it was my dad’s first trip outside of North America. Combine that with the fact they were bringing me home-made maple syrup and my excitement was obnoxiously palpable.

My plan was to show them my life in Dublin, rent a car, pray for sunshine and escape to the Irish countryside, scope out a little family heritage, and drink the perfect pint of Guinness. When I first greeted them at the front door I could’ve sworn I was dreaming  (in fact I very well could’ve been. They got here at the early hour of 9:00am). I led them into my studio apartment, but after dragging in the suitcases there was no room left inside for dad! Not really, but almost. Picture this – studio apartment with myself, a couple of suitcases, and three manly men. The next week was a display of obstacle courses, tight squeezes, shuffle dance stepping while swinging your partner round and round, and eating from precarious surfaces. The good news is there was no need to turn the heater on.

The first couple of days were spent in Dublin where I utilized my tour guide skills and escorted them to my nearest work place. They had a tapas smorgasbord as well as an Old Fashioned Canuck (a cocktail I named, which obviously contains maple syrup). They even had the chance to pull a pint of Guinness for a photo op. They stopped pulling the pint as soon as the picture was taken though, much to the dismay of my friend Vitor, the barman. We also went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral, toured the Guinness Factory with a couple of token Irish pals, and excitedly watched The Amazing Spiderman 2 at The Savoy Cinema.

Dinner and Old Fashioned Canucks at the workplace

Dinner and Old Fashioned Canucks at the workplace

Next on the itinerary was two days in Clare and one day in Sligo. After extensive reasearch we discovered we’d have to get to the airport to rent a car. Steve decided to call a taxi company to get a flat rate to the airport. I hurried everyone out the door at the estimated taxi time of arrival and we proceeded to wait another half hour on the sidewalk. At last I spotted a white station wagon lumbering down the road towards us. We filled the trunk with our luggage and peeled out onto the road, and by peeled, I really mean the most silent taxi man I’ve ever had awkwardly attempted to merge with traffic onto the roadway. With the luggage, a few big men, and a big breakfast not long before, the car was riding low. We inched along while the driver struggled with the concept of wise lane changing.

We make it to Dame Street, the centre of town, when suddenly we’re pulled over and the car has been turned off. Just as I work up the nerve to ask why we’ve been delayed, I hear a knock on the window. The Garda police officer instantly accuses the driver of not being properly registered, asks him why the meter isn’t on, and if we’re friends of his. The driver responded by saying he works for a company and is using his friends car. After a few more accusations, the cop tells us we should get out because the driver isn’t going anywhere. As we retrieved our luggage the Garda stops circulating the car just long enough to tell us that the tires are shot. We climb into a new taxi and the policeman melodramatically yells “you’re lucky to be alive”. Good start.

After a few minor delays at the airport (such as discussing the hidden 1,000 euro hold on Isaac’s credit car with the sales rep) we’re finally driving on the wrong side of the road. We were instantly off to a promising start, unable to find an exit from the airport and accidentally taking a one way to a car garage. Isaac held his own through all of the driving challenges – narrow roads, sitting on the opposite side he’s used to, terrible windshield wipers, and strong lead vocals in the singalong.

Next up on the adventure is Bunratty Castle, Clare, Sligo, and Dublin nightlife.

Good coffe, Dadios?

Good coffe, Dadios?

Looks like it!

Looks like it!

Guinness Factory

Guinness Factory

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Family channel advert

Family channel advert

St Patricks Cathedral

St Patricks Cathedral

Spot Isaac!

Spot Isaac!

St Patricks

St Patricks

My best "welcome" look

My best “welcome” look

Great site on my doorstep :)

Great site on my doorstep 🙂

 

Crossing off the Counties: Wicklow

My sister recently came to visit me. I hadn’t seen family for 17 months so I was ready to burst with excitement.  We only had a couple of days so I had to be wise in planning our adventure. We had one full day together in Dublin and one day to get out of the city and explore some emerald hills. I chose Wicklow because of its close proximity to Dublin and its many claims to fame. Boasting film locations for movies such as Braveheart and P.S I love you, it’s a must-see on anyones Irish tour. This was my third trip to Wicklow, and believe me, there’s a reason why it’s referred to as the Garden of Ireland.   After taking a taxi from my house to O’Connell Street out of fear of being late, we arrived right on time, 8:50am. We grabbed a quick and necessary coffee and proceeded to wait for Irish time, departing a half hour late. Because we were so timely, we managed to snag some seats fairly close to the front. With an upbeat Dublin tour guide and an excessive amount of excited American women we were on our merry way. Joe, our tour guide, went above and beyond the call of tour guidance. He sang classic Irish tunes (sans any musical accompaniment), attempted teaching the Americans how to say a few Gailec words, and provided us with information about every place we went. I had done a very similar day trip to the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough when I first moved to Ireland but I took a lot more away from this tour.

sisters and sunshine

sisters and sunshine

We got lucky with the weather. As we crawled up the winding roads deeper into the Wicklow mountains the clouds cleared and the sun paid us a visit. When we stopped at

Ruth frolicking

Ruth frolicking

the Wicklow Gap (P.S. I love you filmpoint) we left our jackets in the bus and Ruth frolicked ahead to capture the perfect photograph. A few clouds hung between the mountains, so close it felt like if you reached out you could touch them. The lakes nestled between the green hills were perfect. Even with the robust character from Virginia squacking in the background the Wicklow Mountains felt calm. Peaceful.

We also went to the Monastic City in Glendalough where we saw the remains of the famous early Christian monastic settlement first established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. The monks abandoned the settlement centuries ago but many of their hand-built stone buildings are still standing. The monuments built by the monks gave us a glimpse of their way of life. I found that the ruins represent the passion and absolute dedication these people had for their beliefs system. The Round Tower, built by hand centuries ago, is about 30 metres high. I can only imagine how long and how many injuries it must’ve taken to accomplish such a project.

Monastic city

Monastic City

We finished the tour at the first ever Avoca store, an Irish staple, where we got to watch hand weavers in action. I was very impressed with the quickness and finnese required for handweaving, and was doubly impressed when shown the final product – beautiful multi coloured cashmere throws that make you want to veto clothes forever and just lie snuggled in those blankets all day.

The highlight of the trip was the fact that I got to experience Ireland, my current home, with someone I love from my permanent home. Spending time with family and traveling adventures are individual gifts. Getting the opportunity to do both at once is so incredible it turned me greedy. I want more.

Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

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Sparks, tears, and Miley Cyrus.

So I just spent about a week in Ottawa, weekend in Toronto and now I’m heading back to London to finish up exams. The time was spent getting over an annoying cold, relaxing, laughing, spending time with family and friends, reminiscing, and a major lack of studying. Overall, a lovely break.

One night in Ottawa my friend Isabel and I decided to go see “The Last Song” — a movie rendition of Nicholas Sparks’ book. The preview makes it look mediocre at best — girl unwillingly spends summer with Dad, girl meets smokin hot boy with mad abs, hot boy chases after social reject girl, and voila! Summer romance is complete with a cheesy moment as the boy writes “forever” on the girls Converse sneakers. It’s kind of a tradition for Isabel and I to see cheesy chick flicks together, so this seemed perfect.

However, the movie is quite different from the preview. Miley Cyrus (oh Miley) try’s to rid herself of her real-life goofy teen reputation as she becomes a hurt character with an angry exterior, who in the end is sweet at heart. Family issues end up explaining the bitterness. The movie is filled with transformation, melting hearts, and a great father-figure.

I never read the book, but I have read other Nicholas Sparks books and am fully aware of his uncanny power to make me cry like none other.
*Side note: one time I was reading one of his books at work (I worked at a snack shack in the center of a golf course. It was a rainy day, and being the nerd that I am, I killed time reading). I didn’t really think it through though, and of course Sparks, being the dude that he is, has to throw in some incredibly heart-rendering, devastating twist that causes tears to start streaming down my face. An older gentleman may or may not have walked up and ordered a Keiths while my eyes were still incredibly blood shot. Totally not awkward for both parties involved.

Anyhow, so again, just as you’re really starting to like the characters, there’s a twist in the plot and I suddenly find myself drowning in a puddle of my tears. There were about six people in the theatre at best, so sniffles weren’t exactly muffled by any white noise. Isabel and I are sitting there sniffing away, and it got so bad at one point I turned to Iz and handed her a wad of tissue. She took them and wiped her eyes then proceeded to loudly blow her nose. At this point the site was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help laughing, but I was still crying so it was this really strange combination of “laugh sniff choke, laugh sniff choke.” ANYWAYS, by the time the movie was over we both had headaches from trying to hold back our tears. Once the lights came on I turned to Iz and noticed her eyes are totally puffed out, meaning mine must’ve been as well (and they were. Also insanely blood shot).

It could’ve been an embarrassing experience because public displays of emotion aren’t always well received. However, even if Iz and I were the only two people getting a nice salt-water face cleanse in the movie theatre, I think it’s something positive. Family is extraordinarily important to me, and when I see family relationships struggling or going through difficult times, I get emotional because I imagine myself in that position and how painful it would be.

I left the movie reminded of how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family, and how important it is to not take advantage of the relationships in my life. Time is of the essence, am I right? (well not really me. I have no idea who first said that. Off topic, but wouldn’t it be cool if something you said became so big that it suddenly became a cliche? New goal.)

I don’t want to give away the movie, but if you do see it you’ll notice how Ephesians really wraps it up for us:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

All cheese aside, if you can get past Miley’s awful acting and focus on the second half of the story I’d recommend checking this film out. In the end, it was worth the headache.