Friday, March 29, 2013

EuroBlog! Days 6 & 7: Dingle, Dingle, Dromoland

I titled this one Dingle Dingle Dromoland because it’s catchy and uses alliteration, all things people like, and I’m here for you loyal reader! Speaking of loyal readership, did you know I’m getting something like 55 reads on these things? 55 of you are really interested in reading about my vacation? This is so flattering! I have to believe 2 of those are me and Holly, plus 4 of them might be accidentally reading it via Google and then running away quickly, but even that leaves 49 of you. Anyhow, on to the travel blog! If you read about yesterday’s incredible journey, you’ll know this morning we awoke in the quiet coastal village of Portmagee.

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Our ultimate destination today was Dromoland Castle, but after seeing all the incredible sights yesterday and after seeing that we still had glorious sunshine, we headed off to see the Dingle Peninsula. This also gave Holly the chance to ride a dolphin.

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We scarfed down a delicious lunch at Dingle, where the girl taking my order needed help because she couldn’t understand my accent. This is the view from right outside the front door of the fish place.

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Dingle, which includes the Slea Head Drive, provided some truly unbelievable views. Even though we took longer than we thought, it was hard to regret seeing these sights:

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Tucked way down in an area Avis probably didn’t want their rental car to go was this incredible beach.

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I’m pretty sure I found my happy place here. It’s been a rough go of it lately at home, and just sitting here and enjoying the view for a second was amazing. So look! It’s me in my happy place!

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After we spent way to long on the Dingle Peninsula, we finally headed out past Limerick to Dromoland Castle. On the way I learned how to incorrectly fill up a gas tank in Ireland. For future reference this is what you should do:

1) Insert pump into gas tank

2) Pull nozzle once. Nothing will happen, but that’s okay!

3) Wait for someone inside to trigger the pump

4) Go inside and tell them which pump you used

To me this seems like an easy opportunity to steal petrol, but hey, I don’t make the rules. If you try to go in an put money on the machine first, you will confuse the nice Irish gentleman and make all the people behind you wait.

Onward to Dromoland Castle! So to explain this event you must know that my wife fancies herself a princess, and being a princess it troubles her that she has never once slept in a castle. So this stay at the five-star luxury hotel was quite the special occasion, and was only justified by repeating things to myself like “this is the trip of a lifetime”, “Holly only wants this one thing”, and “it’s almost my five year annniversary”. But we did it! And here’s what it looked like.

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Oh, and yeah, they had a full size chess area…

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We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a walking tour of the castle grounds.

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The highlight of the time, except for the part where I donned every fancy item in the room, from bathrobe to red slippers, and sipped the glass bottle of “still water”, was definitely the carriage ride. We got a full ground and Irish history lesson from this absolutely fascinating storyteller. One thing I’d never though about before was the camaraderie between the Irish and Americans. He was quite proud of Ireland’s revolution against Britain, and was very happy to revel in their success with two people from the other country who wouldn’t have anything to do with British oppression and taxation.

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For the last part of the journey in Ireland, we headed off to the Cliffs of Moher an hour away. After one disgusting meal stop where what you ordered was tonged out of a freezer right out of the counter, we made it to the Cliffs. This is sort of Ireland’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon, and was spectacular and freezing cold. Such amazing views, and at times the sun peaked through here as well.

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We made our back to the airport and we are now safely back to Meleah’s place, ready for tomorrow. Before I go, shout out to our Nissan Micra! It may be about the size of me, but it took us to some crazy awesome.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

EuroBlog! Day 5: Ireland Takes Our Breath Away

We landed in Cork, Ireland with high hopes but low expectations about the weather. We’d heard reports of snow, and visiting Ireland’s coast in March is probably riskier than visiting Seattle in March. What happened today will be remembered for the rest of our lives, no doubt. I can barely muster entertaining humor…it was purely amazing.

The day started out about as we expected. We started just outside of Cork, and I safely navigated my left-side-of-the road, high-MPG mini car to Blarney Castle where we kissed the Blarney Stone.

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After that it was wandering time. We headed to the Ring of Kerry, where I had planned a risky, destinationless journey. I didn’t want to hold us down to a specific hotel, but I also didn’t know what that would do to us. What we got was one of our most perfect days. And it was sunny nearly the whole day long.

We started by looping down through Killarney National Park, making stops along the way to take in the amazing views of Torc Waterfall, Lough Leane, and Upper Lake.

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But we hadn’t even scratched the surface. As we kept going down the Ring of Kerry, the sun was casting sun beams over the water and islands.

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With every mile that we closed in, things looked better and better. Every turn gave us a new view.

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Remember. This is Ireland…in March. And there’s snow in London and snow in Dublin. It was unreal.

We journeyed down Skellig Ring on a road that tour buses aren’t allowed on. Thanks to our tour book we decided not to pass on a sign that advertised “The Best View in County Kerry” behind a B&B. We pulled into their parking lot and paid the lady 8 euros to walk up a hill behind her backyard. It was worth every cent.

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But now it was getting dark and we hadn’t yet found a place to eat or sleep. We wandered down to sleepy village of Portmagee, wary that we may have used up all our karma getting all the good views. There seemed to be only one open restaurant, a pub calling The Moorings, where the catch of the day was literally caught in the harbor outside. We picked the chair by the fireplace.

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Whether it was luck or God or my meticulous logistics/itinerary was discussed, but wouldn’t you know this pub doubled as a B&B? And that they had a room? And they prepared it while we ate so we could just go up and sleep? We capped off the Moorings with a Guinness in Ireland, some conversation with an Irish bartender, and a restful sleep. A perfect day. We never saw rain, nor snow. Just a sunny, beautiful, problem-free journey through the County Kerry.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

EuroBlog! Day 4: London Calling

For some reason whenever we choose to tour the world’s biggest cities, we pick the coldest day possible. So as with Boston and New York in the past, we arrived in London when the view from the train looked like this:

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Holly knows what Phoenix feels like, and found this opportunity to stand by a place called “The Phoenix” and look frigid.

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Of course, no amount of chill can stop us from seeing the famous sights, such as Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, where the likes of Darwin, Dickens, Handel, and Newton are all buried.

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After seeing all the dead royals, it is required to go see live royals, or at least the building in which they sit. So here we are at Buckingham Palace. The queen’s flag was flying, which means she was home. Or it was a clever diversion. Truth is I have no idea if she was there! That Queen Elizabeth can be a tricky one.

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Holly often makes fun of me for loving Star Trek, and for wanting to go to the bridge of the Enterprise in Las Vegas. Yet here she is at 221B Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes, taking a picture while holding an actual Sherlock book that she brought with her in her purse. But the picture is sure cute.

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Tower of London was next and great as well, even though they don’t allow cameras for the highlight of the experience, the Crown Jewels. Those were crazy cool, but you have to use Google Images to see them, which is totally unfair. Why does Google Images get to see them? However, while this isn’t the Crown Jewels, this is a picture of us by Tower Bridge, which lovely and all that.

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Sometimes the highlights are the unplanned things in vacations. In our case it was eating at a 16th century tavern frequented by Charles Dickens and discussed in Tale of Two Cities. We also ate pheasant, roast lamb, and cheese tarts, which added to the hoidy-toidy coolness of it all.

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Lastly, what trip would be complete without a picture at Platform 9 3/4?!?!?! (If you require context). Below is timidity, determination, and fun-lovingness, respectively. We all complete our journeys to Hogwart’s in different ways now, don’t we?

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I’m actually writing this particular blog from Ireland, where I am developing new memories and new pictures for a new blog. See you for Day 5 if you can stand to keep looking at my vacation photos! (If not, here’s a funny video! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

EuroBlog! Day 3: Jetlag Recovery Day AKA Meleah Shows Us Her Neck of the Woods

Today included three separate intakes of coffee. This is because a) I love coffee, b) it was cold, and most of all, c) I believe we woke up at the Arizona equivalent of 2 AM to start our day. Woot!

Jetlag Recovery Day started off by sleeping in, of course, which is necessary, of course. Then it was time for Meleah to show us around her life here in Suffolk County. We started with a trip to the city of Ely (eeel-eee), home of a very impressive cathedral.

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This is also the home of really old houses and adorable ducks, both framed in Holly’s picture below as we walked over to check out Oliver Cromwell’s house.

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Then it was time to hop over to her local big city, the education-heavy city of Cambridge, where such academics as Sir Isaac Newton studied underneath trees like this and get hit in the head with apples that do not appear in this picture.

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A walk down the road also led to my first real full English breakfast. Only a newbie tourist could get excited about the prospect of beans and toast and a spot of tea, but count me as an excited tourist, complete with the dead giveaway of the camera attached around the neck. I only give the camera up in order to point at trees…

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Then it was time to walk off our breakfast and take cute pics on bridges:

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Never ones to shy away from stereotypes, we then enjoyed the quintessential “red phone booth in England” shots:

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Then we punted! I can’t take too much credit, as the 30 degree temps turned me into the lone dissenter from the “should we punt when it’s 30 degrees out?” question, but I went along anyway, and I’m glad I did.

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Oh but wait! I have a video for you! Ain’t this blog grand!?!

Not bad for an “off day” eh? Tomorrow we head to London to do London-y things. Bed time!