Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ireland with my parents

My dad works a lot. Be it his desk job or farming or some committee he is on, he seems to always be doing something. Even now, there's not much time where he and mom are with me when I'm home or we were all five together growing up. Even on 'vacation' he could only stay a couple days to get back and take care of the animals or vacation coincided with some work function that he attended during the day and saw us at night. My dad also didn't have a passport a year or six months ago. When I moved to Singapore in 2009 for three years he told me he thought it was great for me, he was proud of me, but he would not be visiting. And he didn't. :) That may sound harsh on the face of it but it's my dad and didn't surprise me. (I'm not sure where I inherited my travel bug, lol.)

I say all this to give some background to our trip to Ireland. My dad's family is Irish and it's the one country he agreed he'd travel to. When he finally told my mom he was ready for a spring 2015 trip, we almost couldn't believe it :). And me being a bum for a year and never having been to Ireland, they asked me to join. I was skeptical. Dad has never been overseas, mom only the couple times to visit me, and I have never spent over a week with them where we are always together. But I said yes and the planning began. Mostly by my mom :). 

The first day was pretty rough - bad jet lag and crappy weather. I slept while they went to find dinner. Every day just got better from there and it turned out to be a great trip. I had to laugh because by the end both parents separately thanked me for coming along. Somehow we all managed to balance each other out :).

Ireland isn't very big but you do need a car to get a lot of places if you aren't doing a package tour. So except for a day in Dublin on the front and back end of the trip, we picked a central spot for things we wanted to do and found a place to rent on AirB&B. We stayed in County Mayo, which is not one of the famous tourist counties but is in the west/central part of the country. We found a PERFECT little house that slept three out in the countryside. It was a former 'in-laws quarters' and had everything we needed - kitchen, wifi, laundry, living area complete with books and movies, and a great book with info for the area. The owners lived across the driveway and were super nice. We had fresh baked goods at least three of the days we were there (so good!) and mom and dad went over for tea Easter afternoon. We couldn't have had nicer hosts. 

We had a rental car. These are expensive in Ireland, mostly due to the insurance. The roads are not super well maintained and are very curvy and narrow in many places. I can understand why there might be a lot of accidents. Especially when you think of tourists coming who usually drive on the opposite side of the road. We got one of the smallest options, which helped on the dicey roads, and manual because it was cheaper. Dad drove almost the whole week and props to him - no accidents or even scratches!!  I sat shotgun to navigate and try to help give reminders on driving on the opposite side of the road without being too much of a backseat driver. Generally it was all good :). Mom sat in the back and tried to enjoy the ride. 

We hit up some of the main sites and also some lesser known ones. Here are some picture highlights and descriptions. It was a great trip and I'd say Ireland lived up to the hype :). 

The first few days were cloudy, windy and wet, but it did get better. One of our first adventures was finding and visiting Moyne Abbey.

We had to walk past a house along this stone fence (our car is parked on the road near that telephone pole in the background), which is in a field for some cows. There's a 'beware of bull' sign before you cross the fence. Luckily that day he was in another field. 

And here is the abbey we walked out to. It's hidden from the road and we were lucky to have found it. I finally spotted a local in the barn and asked how to get out there. 

The someone's backyard :). 

It was pretty neat and I thought pretty well maintained for ruins. It was founded in the fifteenth century. You could walk around most of it too - very accessible and we had it all to ourselves. 

This part was the old church and now there are people buried here. 

In one of the courtyard areas. 

A fireplace and chimney from one of the old rooms. 

We headed up to another place that was along the coast but turned out to be closed and the weather was not so fun.

Mom and dad walking back because there wasn't much to see. 

A view over the cliffs. 

The water and waves were fun to watch. 

One night I took a walk around our countryside neighborhood.
A pasture with farmhouse in the background. 

A scarecrow in a field. 

So many of the roads are one lane and with hedges, shrubs, trees or land acting as natural curbs to keep you on the road. 

I don't know that I've seen a black mama sheep with white lambs :). 

A random cow on the tracks (though I think these tracks were out of commission). 

The empty house that was one of our landmarks on which road to turn down. Roads were not labeled. This one stuck in my mind because the first time I saw it I joked that this was our accommodation for the week :). 

Another little cottage along the road. I wonder when this was originally built. I bet hundreds of years ago. 

Another day we headed south to Kilkee and then worked our way up the coastline. There was a nice, short path along the Kilkee Cliffs you could follow. Not as grand as the Cliffs of Moher, but still impressive and much less crowded (and free). At the beginning of the path is a restaurant that was really nice as well.
Mom and dad trying to stay warm and dry. 

Dad went down to explore closer to the water's edge. 

Mom stayed up higher and kept yelling at dad to be careful and come back. 

Don't fall!!

Mom and dad walking along the path. 

Dad and I in front of the cliffs. 

One of the many stone walls built ages ago throughout Ireland. This one was along the road leading back into town. If you think of the effort to build these and start noticing all the are in awe of how they did it. 

There are lots more pics to share (and some of them didn't download for some reason), so I'll do a 'to be continued...' and share more later. 

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