Monday, September 29, 2014

Ireland 2014, Part II: Cliffs and Castles.

See part I here!

September 21

Day 3, part I: Cliffs of Moher! They were incredible and we only had a couple of wee mishaps...
 — with Mandy and Bethany.

The day began like any other--with too much breakfast and too little coffee--as I took the wheel for my second day of driving on the left.

The traditional "everyone looks cute but the person manning the gps in the back seat" photo. But somehow we all missed the memo, so instead I bring you Mandy looking great while Jess and I creepily smile into the camera.
 — with Mandy and Jessica.

Our drive to the cliffs was beautiful. We stopped in the visitor upon arrival, skimmed some displays, and walked out to one of the most amazing views we've ever seen.

We walked the cliffs trail for quite a ways, stopping every three seconds for more pictures and to marvel at each new angle. The weather was perfect. With clouds the previous day and rain rolling in the next couple, we were so blessed.

Her hair color was brilliant. 

Nearing the top of our final hill, we saw Italian teenagers taking this kind of silly photo:

Mandy took it one step further, and started this trend:

When we left, several other groups were pretending to fall off the cliffs, too. Don't worry, Mom: the ledge I was on was quite wide and sturdy.

We were reluctant to leave, but had to drive to the tiny village of Doolin for the Cliffs of Moher cruise. This is where our wee mishap happened. The combination of driving on the left, having all that car on a  side I'm not used to, the narrow two-cars-can-barely-fit-here windy roads with walls on each side was just too much for a split second, and BAM. My front left tire hit something pretty hard. Shoot. It was a while before it was safe to pull over, and indeed. A hissing sound is never good. Bethany suggested we just drive to the boat and deal with it afterward, and I'm so glad we did. Finding the cruise office was stressful (our dear GPS had NO idea where it was--we just wandered a bit until we saw signs), as was finding parking. The dock itself was a 2km walk from the office, and we arrived just in time!

It was fantastic. The rocking of the boat almost put me to sleep, but when we got close to the cliffs, it was too awe inspiring to nap!

The less-rushed walk back to Poor Car delivered some spectacular views, too:

Our favorite two words here in Ireland are "full coverage." Glad we got that insurance package! 
 — with Mandy and Jessica.

Back at the car, with its fully flat tire, we set about putting on the spare. We found all the equipment and knew exactly what to do.

The spare was good!

We had a jack!


Mandy knows how to work that thing.

Onlythe wrench we had was too short to get proper leverage. There were two pieces, but they didn't fit together. All three of us tried. Hard.
It's a matter of…leeeeverage…savvy?

Mandy finally walked to town (a NYC block away) to find help, while Bethany called to verify with the rental company that we'd get reimbursed if we got the tire replaced. We would! Yes!

Mandy returned shortly with Bill O'Brien, who happens to own the cruise linethat we did not take. Shoot! If you're ever in Doolin, please use O'Brien's Cliffs of Moher cruise! This sweet Irish gentleman and his daughter (probably in her early 20s?) said to not worry, it happens all the time. In fact, his American daughter-in-law got SEVEN flats in a week when she first visited. Ha! Mr. O'Brien got our lug nuts off with a few swift kicks to the wrench, all while on his cell phone. We were soon on our way, slowly, keeping under 80km/hour. So, so grateful!

We stopped in Lehinch on the way out of the area to enjoy a drink, some ice cream, and free wifi. 

Mandy's IPA and my porter: SO GOOD.

Day 3, part II: medieval feast at Bunratty Castle. Totally campy and delicious and wonderful, with madrigals and minstrels, meat and mead.
 — with Mandy and Bethany.

Our big event of the night was a medieval feast at Bunratty Castle, a real castle from the early 1400s that has been turned into a folk park and museum. As it was on the way home from the cliffs, we decided not to skip it just because of the tire. 

We were welcomed by bagpipes into a small entryway, and shuffled up a winding staircase into a great hall, where we were promptly given mugs of mead and entertained by a violinist and a harpist.

The furnishings are pretty authentic, we were told, and we were given a bit of history of the place, before being serenaded by a lovely madrigal performance.

Finally, we were invited down another narrow staircase into the dining hall. The performers doubled as our servers for the evening, and they explained that we'd be given no silverware (except a dagger).

We sat at long, communal tables, and enjoyed some wine (we were very sad that there was no more mead):

Our food was delicious. We drank parsnip soup out of bowls, devoured pork ribs (with BBQ sauce...) with abandon and the occasional help of our daggers, and had to wait for the fingerling potatoes and chicken with herb cream sauce to cool, but we managed. I was the only one of the three to enjoy dessert--a thick berry mousse with a slightly strange, jam-like topping. We were given one spoon to assist with the mousse. Courses were interspersed with music and silly storytelling.

Satisfied and happy, we continued our under-80km/hour journey back to our musty hotel. We made it without problems, and settled in for a goodnight's sleep.

My next (final?) post will discuss our adventures in small villages and bigger cities, touring abbeys and listening to great live music!

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