Sunday, 17 March 2013

ireland in a nutshell


Ireland is like a little getaway from London where people are, as I remember at home; friendly, carefree and relaxed. Most are in holiday mode, like you've entered a sleepy little town that brings out the honesty you miss and crave when living in a big city. The rough itinerary was a mini roadtrip loop over a long weekend; Cork, The Ring Of Kerry, Galway for St Paddys Day, and The Cliffs of Moher.

Driving around the south-west corner is an excellent way to see the countryside at its best. After leaving Cork, it was already Guinness o’clock so we stopped over in Kilarny for a pint of the good stuff. Throughout the day we stumbled across picturesque ruins of old castles and houses and made a stop-over at the famous Ross Castle. I was astounded with how quickly the scenery changed from rolling green hills to what seemed like volcanic terrain, to steep dramatic mountains.  We stopped at Ladies View Lookout for an Irish coffee, with (you guessed it) an amazing view. A young guy at the cafe recommended driving a loop through the Black Valley - sounded edgy. After following his instructions we drove along the narrow winding roads Ireland is famous for. With only enough room for one car, it's a team effort getting two past which significantly increases your driving time. The highlight of the day was passing through the Devils Punch Bowl, a little body of water between two peaks with another breathtaking view. 

That night in Cork, we went out to see some live music; a London based beatbox/blues duo, Heymoonshaker. You can read more about it here, but in summary we ended up being ‘groupies’ and bar hopped around with the band and their Swedish manager after the gig!

After 2 hours in the car the next morning, I experienced the after effects of Guinness first hand and spent a good while in stitches in a roadhouse bathroom. The next destination was Galway for Paddys day with Darren, another ‘whale friend’ (I am now going to use this term to describe friends I met while doing the project in Noosa). We arrived just before the Paddys day parade and stopped for a few more Guinness before checking in (clearly hadn’t learnt my lesson yet). Low and behold, we’d booked the conveniently located hotel on the wrong date. Great! We were in the heart of town on the busiest day in Ireland with nowhere to stay. The receptionist made a few calls and found a room for us at a decent price, which made me think that this trip was a bit more ‘flash packing’ than usual but we didn't have much if a choice. It ended up being the best mistake, ever. The Radisson Blu had an outdoor hottub, sauna, steam room, gym, an amazing buffet breakfast and a big arse room. We didn't have to meet Darren til later so we decided to hot tub it up and take in the amazing view.

Being in Ireland for Paddys day was a great experience. We spent the evening with Darren and his student crew in a little local pub, where the only bar tender managed to serve everyone at the bar at the same time. I swear he was pouring pints with his eyes closed. We ended up in a secret underground bar with a cranking folk rock band. 

The next day we drove south along another suggested coastal route through Ballyvaughan all the way to the Cliffs of Moher. We stopped at Monks seafood restaurant for their world famous chowder. It was THE best chowder I’ve had. I’d highly recommend it. We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher at the perfect time, catching a glimpse of an amazing sunset before accelerating our way to Shannon airport. 

Ireland in a nutshell is my favourite long weekend so far. But there's one thing I learnt. 
Guinness changes you, on the inside.

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