We flew into Dublin from Marrakech, where we would be starting our two weeks in Ireland. It was a nice change in pace having come from chaotic Marrakech. Also, my brother Brandon who is on summer break from college, flew in to Dublin to travel with us for a few weeks.
We spent one full day in Dublin before we embarked on a nine day Paddywagon tour that would take us all around Ireland and Northern Ireland. During our one day in Dublin before the tour, we went out exploring the city. We checked out the Temple Bar area where we had several pints, stopped by the Peterson's pipe store so Scott could buy a new pipe, and then had a full Irish breakfast at a restaurant on Grafton Street…and yes we even ate the black pudding.
The next day we met at the Paddywagon bus bright and early. Our first stop on the tour was the Guinness brewery. Not only was having beer for breakfast fabulous, it was also a great way to start to get to know the other people that we would be spending the next couple of weeks with. It turns out, we ended up with a great group of people on our tour who we became pretty good friends with over the next several days!
As we headed out into the countryside, the rolling green hills of Ireland were absolutely gorgeous sprinkled with random castles and farm animals. We stopped to hike around Dunmase Castle, where we had some amazing panoramic views.
We continued on towards the Dingle peninsula, making a quick stop in a small town called Adare. It was a cute village with thatched roof houses. We then made a short stop at a beach, and also stopped along the way to take pictures of the breathtaking cliffs on the coast.
We spent our first night of the tour in a hostel in a small village called Annascaul. It was pretty rainy and windy outside, so we hunkered down in the Randy Leprechaun pub with our new friends.
The next day we spent some time in the town of Dingle, followed by more hiking on the coast, a visit to the fertility rock, and then made our way down to Killarney which would be our home base for the next couple of nights.
On day three of the tour, we had an early start. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel, and then headed to the local horse stables for a morning ride through the national park.
After our morning ride, we headed out for a scenic drive. We spent the afternoon doing more hiking along the Ring of Kerry, saw another castle, stopped at a delicious chocolate factory, and also did some hiking up to a really pretty waterfall.
The following day we headed to Cork, stopping at the Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Apparently kissing the stone will give you the gift of gab. Scott kissed the stone for the second time in his life…Lord help us! Those that know Scott, know that he needs no help in the gab area.
We stayed the night in Cork, where we enjoyed sampling more pubs. The next morning, day five, we headed to the Cliffs of Mohair, stopped off for a pub lunch, and then on to Gallway. The climb up to the cliffs was steep, and the drop off the cliffs was a little frightening, but once we got to the top I couldn't resist sitting on the edge.
When we arrived in Gallway, we settled into our rooms and then went out for a night on the town.
On day six of the tour we headed up to Northern Ireland, starting in the city of Derry. At this point, the tour kind of shifted from all castles and rolling hills, to an interesting history lesson about the less pleasant times in Ireland's past, including the potato famine and the troubles. We stopped at a museum where we learned about How Ireland was affected by the hardships brought on by the potato famine and how it affected the people of those times.
The first night in Derry, we walked decided to have a night in to recover from several nights out at the pub. So we walked down to a local grocery store with a group of friends from the tour and then we prepared a feast in the hostel kitchen. After dinner, we had a last playing several rounds of the card game UNO.
The next morning we did a walking tour of Derry which was guided by a local man who taught us about the history of the troubles, and about Bloody Sunday and the activities that followed. It was a little eerie to think of all of the violence that occurred not so long ago in a town that seems to be so peaceful now.
After lunch we went out to Glenveagh National Park, where we toured a historic castle and grounds. It was a nice mood lifter after such a heavy morning. The grounds and the castle were absolutely gorgeous, unfortunately, the weather was not so gorgeous…typical Irish rain.
The second night in Derry, we strolled around the town, we had dinner at a pub, and then made our way down to watch a local soccer match. On the way to the stadium we passed a group of soccer hooligans we had seen earlier at the pub. As we passed by they started chanting “Alan! Alan! Wolf Pack! Hangover!” Apparently, they thought Scott looked like the guy from the movie The Hangover. Scott played along by pumping his fist in the air and the guys would cheer. It was hysterical! We had a pretty good laugh.
The soccer game was a bunch of fun. We especially enjoyed the group of old timers sitting behind us cracking jokes at each other in their heavy Irish accents. The local team won the match, which made the game exciting.
The next day we packed up and headed along the Northern coast making two major stops at the Giant's Causeway and the Rope Bridge. It was rainy again, but we wouldn't let that stop our fun.
Our last night of the tour we spent in the city of Belfast. Although Belfast wasn't our favorite city, the history of the separation of the Catholics and Protestants was fascinating. In the morning we took a cab tour of both sides of the city that are still separated by a wall. We even got to leave a message on the wall.
On the way out of town, we stopped at the harbor where the Titanic was built and launched. There is now a museum and gift shop.
Our tour ended back in Dublin. There were several of us on the tour that didn't have flights out of Ireland until a couple days later, so we spent the next day in Dublin doing a walking tour and having dinner with our friends from the tour. At the end of our last night in Ireland, we had a big group hug and went our separate ways. Hopefully we will see our new friends again as we make our way across the world to some of the places they are from.