Welcome to my blog about my trip to Ireland with the Greeley Chorale in May/June 2013.  This site will consist of blog entries for each day of the trip and contain pictures (that I took while on the trip), excerpts from the blog I kept while we were in Ireland (which will be placed in quotes and italicized), and just some various other bits of information or my thoughts/feelings about the trip now that we are back and I've had a chance to soak in and process the journey we took.

The Chorale left in two separate groups for this trip.  I was a part of the first group to leave but the second group to arrive.  The group I was in was made up of all the people who were staying an extra 4 days for the extension portion of the tour.  This group included my parents who were excited for the trip as well.  My dad is a part of the Chorale which is why we were getting to take such an amazing adventure.

Ireland is a place I have always wanted to go.  Anytime someone would ask me, if you could go anywhere in the world where would you like to visit most, I could quickly and without any hesitation say Ireland.  Usually before they even could complete the question.  :)  That made this trip a dream come true for me.  We were going to visit many of the places I wanted to go (Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle) as well as a few areas I had never had a specific desire to go (Belfast, Dublin). However, even those places I hadn't had a specific desire to go to were exciting prospects, mostly because, I was going to be in IRELAND!

I hope you can enjoy the journey with me as I walk back through my trip and share the experiences that make me still answer the question of where I would go if I could go anywhere in the world with a quick and resounding IRELAND....AGAIN!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thursday, June 6th (Ring of Kerry --> Bog Village --> Killarney National Park --> Molly Darcys)

Today was another long travel day, but a fun day also.  We were taking the drive around the Ring of Kerry, which was going to include many stops.  The day before, Katie had told us to swipe a towel from the hotel to bring with us....we were going to bring it back.  I forgot, but luckily Sara didn't.  "We started out and Katie told us about bogs and peat, and how it formed from plant life that grew, died and sunk to the bottom of the watery places, to start all over again.  They use peat in fires through the winter." The bogs are starting to shrink, however, because of the demand for peat.  We saw some areas of bogs, some that had been cut recently, others that seem relatively untouched.  Katie is quite funny and while telling us a bit about religion in Ireland (which isn't talked about much) she said the best way to describe the relationship of people with the church is "the hatch them, match them, and then dispatch them." Which basically means the Irish, as a whole, go to the church for births, marriages, and funerals.

"On the way we crossed the Laune River and in a town called Killorglin we learned about the Puck Fair.  Puck is what they call a male goat.  During the fair they go into the mountains and capture a wild goat.  They put him in something and decorate him with ribbons and such, then hoist him up above the square and party for 3 days.  At the end they bring down the goat and set him free." It's an interesting tradition, and while Katie was telling us about this we were all a little concerned for this goat.  We asked if they feed him, which she answered, OF COURSE.  There is a statue of the King Puck at the entrance to Killorglin, and at the Bog Village we stopped at.

After telling us what they do at the fair Katie went on to explain the history as to why this fair exists. "They do this because when Cromwell was crossing the mountains the wild goats ran into the city and the people realized they must be running from something, so they hid and were saved from Cromwell.  So they celebrate the wild goats."  The bog village was also full of interesting history, and shows what a village would have looked like back in the 18th century in Ireland.

They didn't just have buildings and statues at Kerry's Bog Village.  They also had live animals around too.  The whole site was quite interesting and I got a chance to smell burning peat, as they were burning some in one of the cottages to "show" how it smelled.  It's very interesting and I can't even think of how you would describe the smell.

There is some debate about preserving the peat bogs, how best to do that, but also how to maintain the ability to heat their homes in the winter.  After seeing the how much peat can be needed for a single cabin I understand why.  It was a pretty area, and I really liked seeing the Kerry Bog Ponies (I think is what they were called).

In the very front there were a couple of Irish Wolfhounds.  At first they were both back in the shade.  I'm sure the large amounts of sun the island had been getting while we were there was making it very warm for them.  They aren't used to that kind of weather all the time.  One came out into the sun a little later however, but the other was very sleepy and just kept relaxing in the shade.

"The Red Fox Inn is right there and apparently they make the best Irish Coffee, which contains Bailey's Irish Cream." I really want to try making this at home, but with Irish Cream flavoring instead of the actual alcohol. It was an interesting stop for sure.  "Then it was back in the bus and we had a couple of photo stops."  During the trip I tried to take some decent photos out the window as we traveled.  Some came out well, others not so great.  The glare in the windows really took some work to get around, but some of them were worth it.

"Throughout the day we stopped at different points to take pictures of the lakes, points and bays along the way."  The fact it was typically so clear, and sunny and we could see so much was just a blessing and I was just always a little bit in awe of the beauty everywhere.  At times I felt like I was a million miles from home, other times I felt like I was traveling through the country side of my own state.

I don't remember specifically which peninsula this was, although I believe it was the Iveragh Peninsula, but I was having a lot of fun taking different pictures of the views, zoomed in, zoomed out.  I wanted to capture everything I could about the place so I could try and remember it.

The water was amazingly clear and seeing to the bottom in areas was a really cool thing to see.  Then of course I had to make sure to get a picture of myself against this beautiful backdrop.  Had to prove I really was there.

"We stopped in Waterville to dip our feet in the Atlantic, which was VERY cold.  I think I got some awesome pictures."  You will have to tell me if you think they turned out awesome.  The water was fun to play around in, and the waves were a great subject to testing out my photography skills.  I wanted so badly to capture some cool tidal waves.  I know that doesn't scream "Ireland" specifically, but it was something I saw and wanted to capture.

Once we got dired off and left Waterville we stopped one more time for some pictures at Coomakista Pass.  It was a pretty view back down towards the water.  There were quite a few people there, and some people selling different things.  I just wandered around the small area taking pictures of the view, and of the Mary statue that was there.

Then just a little ways further outside of Waterville we stopped for lunch.  It was very tasty, and at a little restaurant that sat along a stretch of land that overlooked some more beautiful views.  I could see why this was such a popular drive to take.  Seeing it on a "soft" day wouldn't be as fun, but it's still beautiful.  Just to clarify, a "soft" day is a day that it just sort of mists, doesn't really rain, just is damp and wet.

Most of the time I was trying to take pictures that would be interesting, and fun, and different angles or cool shots, but occasionally I was a "tourist" photographer too and took pictures of people.  Mostly my parents, and I think they turned out pretty cool.  I also loved the stone "wall" that was along the road.  There was also a rather ornate lamp post, which I thought was pretty cool, although did feel a bit out of place.

"After that we stopped at Sneem for icecream.  It was also amazing stuff and just beautiful views." I loved the rocks that the water was running down and through.  It had some awesome angles and I spent most of my time there taking pictures of it.  I did make sure to get some good ice cream though.

Of course I also had to get a picture of me at Sneem too, since it was such a pretty spot.  I'd love to go back to Sneem and look around some more.  I did do a little window shopping while I was there there.  Didn't find much those, so I just enjoyed the day and my ice cream.

"We also stopped at Dingle Bay and Lady's View for photo ops and learned the story about a spirit and Finn McCool's son (Finn McCool being the giant from the Giant's Causeway mythos) who went to the land of youth and thought he stayed 2 years and had stayed over 300 years."  Lady's view has some pretty views of the lakes.  It's called ladies view, because when the queen visited it's where the ladies in waiting went.

There were many parts of Killarney National Park that made me think of the Rocky Mountains.  It may not be nearly as high, and they are probably warmer, but they are similar in look.  It was a great end to the drive.  Our driver, Tom, did play a bit of a mean trick on us though.  The roads are pretty narrow and he was very good and navigating the roads and passing cars with such a big bus.  We were getting ready to go through a tunnel and our guide, Katie, told us we needed to close our eyes, and as we started under the tunnel Tom crushed an empty water bottle making everything think he had crunched the bus.  It was kind of funny though.

"We got back "home" about 4PM (almost an hour earlier than originally expected on the itinerary) and got ready for the pub concert.  Many of us signed up to take the jaunty cabs or carriages to Molly Darcy's.  These are fun horse drawn carriages."

"At 5:45 PM we headed to the carriages.  We had an extra treat, because instead of taking us straight to Molly Darcy's we went through part of the national park again.  The driver was funny hitting on Sara quite a bit and me a little too."

Once again the scenery was just crazy beautiful and we had so much fun traveling down the road.  We got to see behind a lot of the buildings we saw the front of earlier, and even a cemetery, which had a bunch of cows grazing around it.  It was sort of a funny site.  It was sort of sad when the trip was over, because it was a lot of fun and a cool way to see some of the area.

We didn't get dropped off right at Molly Darcy's but just down the road, so we walked the rest of the way.  Killarney really was a cool town and I wish I had had more time to just wander around and explore it.  That will have to wait for my next trip there.  :)

"The pub was good sized, which was good with there being so many of us.  The group sang for about 30 minutes and then we got to eat." The food there was really good, but I felt kind of bad, because the desert for the dinner was something Sara couldn't have (do to diet stuff), but luckily we asked and they brought her something else.

"A band came up and played in the pub then and dancers joined them a few times too.  It was very fun and over a little too fast, but it was Mighty Craic!" Mighty Craic is an expression used in Ireland meaning really good fun.  They might ask how the pub was, and it you could respond that the craic was mighty.

We would get a lot of information from Katie, our tour guide and I tried to make note and remember of lot of the things she would tell us. "Killarney is a vacation and tourist spot (foreign and domestic.)  They have a population of around 12,000 people, but rumored to have beds of 80,000 in the multiple hotels and B&B's, etc.  SO MANY!!  For names "Kill" refers to a "church of."  So any towns that start with "Kill" are based around a church.  "Mc" is "son of."  So McConnell is "son of Connell."  On the other hand "O" is the grandson of.  So "O'Connel" is the grandson of Connell."