A Travellerspoint blog

Ennis (2 of 2)

Doolin, Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher

overcast 16 °C

8-10-09

There are two upshots from staying at a bed and breakfast – you get a bed AND you get breakfast. This is why I found myself at 8:00 AM (which definitely still felt like 3 AM) in a nice little dining room down the hall from our room. I ordered the “hot” breakfast, which was sausage, egg and bacon. The bacon is actually fried smoked ham. It was delicious. Raquel on the other hand, had the “cold” breakfast. It was, less than surprisingly, cereal.

After that it was off north to Doolin and the Aran Islands. This, of course, involved driving. By now I was sufficiently used to driving on the left side of the road, but driving in Ireland, I soon discovered, poses other difficulties as well. Most notably that two lanes on a major road in Ireland is about a third as wide any road in the US. And Ireland is full of busses and very steep curves. This results in spectacular leaps of faith that you won’t hit anything/drive off any cliffs anytime there is on-coming traffic. I must also applaud Ireland for comprehending the meaning of the word “limit” as the speed limit is 100 km/hr and that is certainly the speed at which the odds of survival drop precipitously.

In any event, we reached Doolin without a scratch. Doolin is actually a region of Ireland that is composed of three tiny villages that are quite cute. We stopped by the tourist information center, which was a room full of brochures and no one around to help us. Not dissuaded, we drove west and came upon the Ocean and a pier. We soon had purchased tickets to the nearest Aran Island, Inis Oirr.

The ride over was undoubtedly and early highlight of the trip, with rain falling and against the backdrop of the misty Ciffs of Moher (more to come on that) we headed west on a very choppy Atlantic. The boat was rocking back and forth and we had a blast. We befriended an English-Irish couple with a nine month-old baby. Both happened to be looking away when their stroller started to tip. Fortunately Raquel and I were on it and it did not fall over. The parents were still oblivious – great people, pretty bad instincts.

We reached Inis Oirr and disembarked. We soon found ourselves on the back of a horsedrawn wagon taking a tour of the island with a driver named “Oli” who claimed he would gibe us a history of the island as while we toured. Instead he didn’t say anything and when we asked questions he answered with “Oh yeah, sure, sure” and then mumble off into Irish. I’m pretty sure anything Raquel and I asked would have been incorporated into the Aran Islands’ history (“Do you get many volcanoes around here?” “Oh yeah, sure sure, and . . .”). The tour itself was stunning – we saw rolling hills and stone walls, a beautiful lake and a shipwrecked tanker that no one got around to moving in the last 40 years. After the tour we were on our own and ascended to the top of the island where a 14th century castle stood, built in the center of a 1st century ring (the remains of which we were completely unable to locate). While inside Raquel noted the roof didn’t look to stable. She was right and I thought it wise to, after 600 years or so, not push our luck. We meandered down to the main town area where we stumbled upon the remains of an 8th to 9th century church – a 1200 year old structure. There was not much left, but it was still awe-inspiring to stand inside of it. After that we had a quick lunch and back to the mainland we went.

Upon reaching the mainland we drove back south a bit and came upon the Cliffs of Moher. For those of you not familiar with them, they were the inspiration for the Cliffs of Insanity in the Princess Bride. And believe me, the cliffs of insanity have very little on the Cliffs of Moher – they are very tall and very steep. We walked along them until the paved trail ended and a large sign read “Please Do Not Go Any Further.” All around us people continued to walk along the cliffs where the trail ended and, more importantly, where the protective wall ended. I explained to Raquel that the “everyone else was doing it” defense probably wouldn’t save us from being completely barred from recovering any damages we might suffer from falling down the near 800 foot high cliffs. We decided to press on anyway. The Cliffs can really be described only one way: stunning. I doubt any picture we took will really capture their essence. It was like something straight out of a movie. And they dropped straight down literally feet from where we were walking. While I spent most of my time looking at the cliffs Raquel was mostly amazed by the grass covering the field that we were walking alongside. I’m fairly certain she has more picture of the grass than the cliffs. The grass was, as she said, “very green.”

Exhausted from our walk along the cliffs we headed back to Ennis. We stopped in a little town, Ennistymon, along the way and had a nice dinner. Finally, we were back in Ennis where we planned our next day and went out for a bit. Ennis is evidently known for its live music and we wanted to make sure we experienced that before moving on. We went into a cozy pub with a warm atmosphere where a local band played some traditional Irish music. They were great. After about an hour of listening we called it a night Tomorrow its South to the Dinge peninsula and Killarney.

Posted by JohnnyPing 15:33 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Ennis

Night 1 of 2

overcast 15 °C

8-9-09

Almost immediately after my last post I thought it would be a good idea to sleep. Of course the Paris airport doesn’t really lend itself to such accommodations. Raquel and I, however, would not be deterred. Within 20 minutes of ordering a quick breakfast after my last post we were sound asleep on the airport floor. Seriously. And it was probably one of the best rests I’ve had in a long time.

After that we boarded our flight to Shannon. The real problem with traveling with a cold is not so much the discomfort that prevents sleep (which certainly doesn’t help), but rather the inability for your ears to properly equalize with the changes in air pressure. Going up isn’t so bad, but going down, as the pressure grows, its an acute form of torture. My ears still have not fully recovered.

After a brief stop in customs we were officially on the Emerald Isle. Despite Europe’s fantastic transit reputation, Ireland is somewhat underdeveloped in its rail capacity. As a result, Raquel and I decided to rent a car. For those of you who do not know, drivers in Ireland, like the UK, drive on the left side of the road. This, after a red-eye flight from the states, is a bit of a challenge to get used to. It’s a lot like getting the “flip” pill in brick breaker (for those of you who have a blackberry), except you really only get one life. Everything is backwards and it really takes a conscious effort to make sure you do things right. Despite this effort I still had to go twice around the first roundabout we arrived at and made at least one turn the wrong way down a one way road. Despite these trials I think its fair to say that Raquel and I were blown away by the scenery on our drive from Shannon to Ennis. Everywhere we looked there were green rolling hills. It was fantastic.

Upon arriving at Ennis we checked into our bed and breakfast and took a walk around the city (really just a large town). Its a beautiful yet quaint place with narrow roads and clustered buildings. We walked up to the Ennis friary and toured it – a 12th century monastery that had since fallen into disrepair. After that we had a nice dinner where I ordered the Irish stew, which, less than surprisingly, was 89% potatoes. Still, it was excellent. I must also say the Guinness here really is completely different from the states – its just so much smoother. I am not ashamed to say I had three this evening. After my third, we decided it was best to head back to the B&B. Both Raquel and I had been hopeful of seeing some live traditional music tonight but we’re completely exhausted. We’ll hopefully have many more opportunities to enjoy the Irish nightlife.

I am very happy to be in Ireland.

Posted by JohnnyPing 12:45 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Paris

(or how I kill time with a 3 hour layover)

semi-overcast 17 °C

8-9-09

One thing I do not miss about Europe is getting there. Our flight departed the U.S. at 5:45 PM (really 6:30) on 8-8-09 and landed in Paris at 7:30 AM on 8-9-09. For those of you keeping track at home that’s 1:30 AM Eastern Time and 6:30 AM in Ireland. This disparity can really only be characterized one way: blowing chunks. It might not be so bad if sleep was possible on the flight, but when you are in a row with four other people, including “Tex” (“that’s not really my name just what I call myself”) the 4 year old Dutch-boy sitting next to you talking about anything that happens to come to mind, and are fighting off a cold – sleep really isn’t that possible. Instead, you just close your eyes for 4-6 straight hours and vow to truly appreciate legroom the next time you have it.

Despite this, I cannot help but be excited. I cannot believe how long it has been since I was last in Europe. Many of you probably followed my last blog, which detailed my time living in Spain and traveling through Europe. It’s been four long years since then and in the meantime I’ve lived in Manhattan for two years and queens for another two, worked as a paralegal at the Manhattan DA’s office, gone to law school, interned for a then-Second Circuit Judge (Congrats to Justice Sotomayor) and worked as a summer associate at a large law firm in Manhattan (Big D&P shoutout). But the details of my European adventure remain as fresh in my mind as though it were yesterday. I cannot say I vow to live by the rules I set out after my journey as I’m not going at it solo this time (I do, however, pledge not to shave), but I promise to be as open-minded to my forthcoming experience as I was then.

After all, another adventure is just beginning.

Posted by JohnnyPing 23:10 Archived in France Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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