Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)

Travel Tales: Ireland

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For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.– Robert Louis Stevenson

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, this passion for travel that runs through my veins. But I believe it may have been during a class project in the 6th grade (thank you Mrs. Wight, my all-time favorite teacher). We were instructed to pick a country and do a report and art project on what we had chosen. I, of course, picked Egypt. You see, somewhere in early childhood I got it into my head that being an Egyptologist was the absolute dream job any little girl could ask for. Pssh. Ballerinas had nothing on archaeologists!

I wanted to be Indiana Jones, bursting into sealed tombs and finding piles of gold, jewels, and mummies. Oh, mummies… my fascination lasts to this day.

Our school librarian probably thought I was a little freak. I checked out and re-checked out every single book the school library had on mummies, mummification, etc, for a few years straight.

To this day, I am slightly obsessed with anything and everything Egypt. If it weren’t for the continuing strife in the country, I would have visited already. Some day… Some day…

Anywho, back to my point. I believe that doing that project in 6th grade caused something to click in my head. Before then, the concept of venturing to a foreign land was just that… foreign. My limited 11-year-old brain didn’t quite understand that if I truly wanted to go somewhere, no matter how far away or exotic, that I could go. Maybe not right then, but someday.

This idea began to fester and throughout middle and high school, my obsession with travel only grew. In high school I was in the National Academy of Travel and Tourism. Basically, for two years a small group of us were in specific classes (college-level geography, destination analysis, etc.) and did things like FAM (familiarization) tours of local hotels and tourism destinations. I met some of my best friends in the group and I cannot imagine high school without the NATT. Our senior year we even took a class trip to San Francisco. Can you imagine? Twenty basically unattended high school kids wandering around San Fran?! It was AWESOME!

During junior and senior year I saved up all my pennies and, come graduation, I rewarded myself with a 3-week trip to Europe with one of my NATT teachers and a couple of groups of students from high schools across the U.S.

My good friend, and NATT classmate, A. came too. We had an amazing time and I learned so much. I am now a firm believer that travel is the ultimate learning tool and that those who do not endeavor to see as much of the world as possible are limiting themselves in ways they will never understand.

For me, that first trip to the UK and France was the travel “gateway drug.” From then on I was hooked. I was constantly planning my next trip and definitely came down with a lasting case of wanderlust. I started to feel restless and yearned for more adventures. And boy howdy, have I gone on some since!

In going through old photos and reliving some amazing memories, I knew I wanted to incorporate these experiences into my blog somehow.

That’s what brings me to this series of posts. Once per week for the foreseeable future, I will be posting some photos and memories from a past trip. There won’t be any rhyme or reason to the order, just whatever happens to strike my fancy at the time. I originally planned to post them on the same day each week, but I don’t really know if I want to structure them in such a way. We’ll see!

I hope you all enjoy them and I would love to hear about your past adventures! I am trying to figure out how to add a linky tool to WordPress.com posts (if you know how, HELP ME!) so that we can all link up and bask in travel goodness. Until then, feel free to post links in the comment section.

Now… Off to the races!

I thought for my first installment, I would share my trip to Ireland.

It was the first stop on my 2004 high school graduation trip; the very first foreign country I ever visited!

Our first stop after landing at the Shannon airport was Bunratty Castle, in County Clare. It sits in Bunratty village between Limerick and Ennis.

Bunratty Castle

 

The imposing castle was a great way to start off my vacation and give me a taste for medieval Europe.

Cliffs of Moher--Looking south towards Hag's Head

 

Imagine seeing this on your very first day in Europe! The Cliffs of Moher remain one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. Those green, craggy cliffs set off against the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean–stunning.

Against the advice of our trip leader, A. and I ventured out onto the edge. It was absolutely terrifying but exhilarating. These amazing cliffs top off at around 702 ft. high and have been featured in three of my favorite films: Princess Bride, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Leap Year.

If you ever get the chance to visit Ireland, I highly recommend making a stop at the cliffs. I promise you won’t regret it–how could you?!

 

I don't recommend doing this, however!

 

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is a tourist trail that runs through many famous Irish villages and features the ubiquitous views of the Emerald Isle that we are all used to. I never knew so many shades of green existed in the world!

Other than getting extremely car sick (bus sick?) that day, driving the full loop was one of the most memorable parts of my trip. If you are into scenic driving routes and those postcard views of Ireland, it really doesn’t get any better than the Ring of Kerry.

Blarney Stone

 

Near Cork sits Blarney Castle and its famous Blarney Stone. The stone, which was set into the castle in 1446, is said to give the famous Irish “gift of gab” to all who kiss the stone–upside down no less!

Millions of tourists have made that slightly terrifying back bend to kiss the stone. Here’s a great description of the “ritual” courtesy of Wikipedia:

The ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone, according to the castle’s proprietors, has been performed by “millions of people”, including “world statesmen, literary giants [and] legends of the silver screen”.The kiss, however, is not casually achieved. To touch the stone with one’s lips, the participant must ascend to the castle’s peak, then lean over backwards on the parapet’s edge. This is traditionally achieved with the help of an assistant. Although the parapet is now fitted with wrought-iron guide rails and protective crossbars, the ritual can still trigger attacks of acrophobia, an extreme or irrational fear of heights.

It is said that the Blarney Stone is the most “unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.” (Tripadvisor.com 2009).

Hmm. Is it weird that that makes me even more happy that I did it?!

 

St. Patrick's Cathedral

 

The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Patrick is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland which was founded in 1191.

To be honest, St. Patrick’s was just the first of many church/cathedral visits on my trip. It was beautiful and many famous people are buried there, but other than that, I don’t remember much about it.

 

Umm... Not so much

 

No post on Ireland would be complete without mentioning the most famous of all Irish beers: Guinness.

Funny story… On our first night in Dublin, A. and I ventured out to a local pub. We took our seats at the bar and were being helped when a bunch of other people from our group came in. The bartender asked for their IDs. The drinking age in Ireland is 18 and most of the students on the trip were 17 (I was 18). He refused to serve them and asked them to leave. A. was also only 17 at the time, but after they left he looked at us and said that because we were “Reds,” he would serve us. A., like me, has bright red hair. How cool is that?

We also both got mistaken for locals in Ireland, and many tourists would come up to us asking directions. Us red heads fit right in in Ireland!

***

Whew! Not all future posts will be this long. But I just had to go all out for my first!

I had this set to auto-post on Friday, but obviously it didn’t work! So, there will probably be two of these this week.

Again, please comment and link up any similar posts you have!

Thanks for reading,

W.

 

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10 thoughts on “Travel Tales: Ireland

  1. Pingback: Fair Isle Castle | Hip Vacation Rentals

  2. Don’t forget about 9th grade and those dazzling beaches! Love you my friend.

  3. Sounds like a pretty great graduation trip! Beautiful pics!

  4. So pretty! Can’t wait to see more of your past adventures! I definitely have the travel bug, but am still waiting to really get moving.

  5. >I am now a firm believer that travel is the ultimate learning tool and that those who do not endeavor to see as much of the world as possible are limiting themselves in ways they will never understand.
    – Bingo! And for those who can’t travel as much as we’d like to, the next best option is to read other people’s travel stories. That is *exactly* why I’ve RSSed your blog, Whitney. I don’t wanna be blank ’bout Bulgaria no more. 😉

    Stories about your trips to other countries? Bring ’em on!

    Kate

  6. Hi Whitney!

    Love your post on Ireland – it is the only country minus Belize that I have visited so far! I sent you an email through your account listed on the blog – write me back when you get a chance, as I would love to chat!

    Thanks,

    Jaime

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