Ireland

A Great Irish Ditty and Those 50p Cheap Flights

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Categories: Challenges Insights and More, County Cork, England, Food and Other Stuff, Glasgow, Ireland, Ireland, London, Scotland, Video Tours | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cork County, Ireland Music Video

I made this video because we took so many beautiful pictures of Ireland that I couldn’t fit all of them in the blog plus adding music always helps with the emotion of it all. The music is by an Irish guitarist/singer named Luka Bloom that I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy it all too.

Categories: County Cork, County Cork, Ireland, Ireland, Video Tours | 2 Comments

Cork, Ireland – August 18-20, 2008: DAY TWO, Blarney Castle

Cork Patch

Cork Patch

Day Two in Cork, Ireland started with us sleeping in a bit late and then repacking our bags to prepare for our early departure the next morning. We knew today would be a full day and by the time we got back to the hostel packing wouldn’t really be our first priority.

Repacking The Bags At Sheila's Hostel

Repacking The Bags At Sheila's Hostel

After that job was satisfied we set off for some good ole breakfast and then to catch the 224 bus from Merchants Quay at one o’clock to Blarney Castle. We found a nice little café on one of the side streets in the City Center of Cork and ordered a lovely croissant with egg and spinach, a side salad, and, for me, a café mocha. The café had all these posters and various things like the sugar packets with saying on them that were just the typical dry Irish sense of humor. Things like ‘use as a really small pillow’ or ‘directions: put in coffee and shut up’ on the sugar packets. Or ‘Hi, my name is Larry and I’ll be your plate today’ on the plate that we were eating off of and then there were some that the humor went right over our heads and still perplex me today.

Sugar Packets With A Sense Of Humor

Sugar Packets With A Sense Of Humor

After lunch we headed to the bus station to get our tickets to Blarney. At 1 p.m. on the nose the bus was there and we were boarding and away we went. We were informed that the ride would be about 25 minutes and soon discovered that the majority of that was just getting out of the city.

Upon arriving in Blarney we were told by the bus driver to head up the street and we would see the entrance to Blarney Castle and we did. At the entrance there was a little café and Matt and I both decided that we could use some artificial energy in the form of a cappuccino. Fearing the thought of Matt having a whole one to him self we decided one shared between the two of us was best. I ordered a cappuccino with Irish Cream flavor and was told by the perfect Irish specimen behind the counter that they were all out of Irish Cream. I asked how that was possible, that must be against the law in Ireland. He smiled sweetly and I asked what they did have and we settled on a hazelnut cappuccino and Matt and I headed to the entrance of the castle.

Through the entrance I checked out the souvenir shop and picked up two patches, one of the Irish flag and one of the Cork flag to put on my computer case along with my other patches of the world.

Matt with Cappuccino in Front of Blarney Castle

Matt with Cappuccino in Front of Blarney Castle

Me in Front Of Blarney Castle

Me in Front Of Blarney Castle (Hey, Where's the Cappuccino?)

Once the castle came into view we started taking pictures of the beautiful castle set against the beautiful Irish background. Of course in both pictures you can see Matt and I clutching our coveted hazelnut cappuccino, the magic elixir. We even had one gentleman ask if we would like him to take a picture of the two of us so that people would know that we actually came there together. The picture is below.

Me and Matt, Blarney Castle

Me and Matt, Blarney Castle

For those of you who always wonder why I say that Matt can’t have chocolate or caffeine of any sort I give you the two following pictures. The first one is before Matt had a sip. The second one is after Matt had a sip. Shortly after these pictures I took the cappuccino away from Matt and made him run up and down the steps of the castle until the caffeine wore off.

Before Caffeine...

Before Caffeine...

...After Caffeine!

...After Caffeine!

Then we headed down the trail to the castle. Along the way there is a little stream that follows the path and Matt and I noticed that people had been throwing coins into the stream apparently making wishes. Any where there was water there were coins in the water. We started plotting ways to come back after dark and scoop enough coinage up to pay for that damn taxi ride to the airport in Germany (see Scotland blog for explanation).

Coins in the Stream

Coins in the Stream

Matt walking towards Blarney Castle

Matt walking towards Blarney Castle

Once we got to the entrance of the castle itself we decided to go the path of least resistance which was to go to the right instead of the left towards the gate of the castle and investigate Badger’s Cave.

Badgers Cave

Badgers Cave

Apparently when Lord Cromwell’s General Lord Broghill besieged the castle the occupants escaped through Badger’s Cave where there were tunnels that lead to Cork, Kerry, and other places.

Matt in Badger's Cave

Matt in Badger's Cave

Me Leaving Badger's Cave

Me Leaving Badger's Cave

We then followed the little trail outside the Cave around through a little wooded area up some rock stairs that eventually brought us in to the back of the castle.

Matt in the Castle's Backyard

Matt in the Castle's Backyard

Matt with a View From The Castle Backyard

Matt with a View From The Castle Backyard

It's a Long Way Down...but Really Pretty

It's a Long Way Down...but Really Pretty.

Me at the Castle Wall

Me at the Castle Wall

They must have been really short back then...

They must have been really short back then...

As we walked around the castle trying assess the technicalities involved with actually kissing the Blarney stone (Matt and I are both height challenged so it is not a small thing to contemplate) we took more photos.

Me Next To Front Gate of Castle...

Me Near Front Gate of Castle...

Yes, I am Squinting. It was Sunny Out ALL DAY!

Yes, I am Squinting. It was Sunny Out ALL DAY!

And more pictures…

Can You Guess Where I Am??? Sort Of Like 'Where's Waldo' But Easier!

Can You Guess Where I Am??? Sort Of Like 'Where's Waldo' But Easier

Okay, Now It Gets Tougher...Where's Matt?

Okay, Now It Gets Tougher...Where's Matt??

But finally we decided to take a deep breath and practice our ‘Cool Moss’ routine (for all you Tony people out there) and suck it up and just do it. Inside the castle we found the first room to be the Earl’s Bedchamber and a note stating that Winston Churchill had kissed the Blarney Stone and see where it got him.

Winston Churchill Was Here!

Winston Churchill Was Here!

So it was settled, we would kiss the Blarney Stone and we would start climbing now.

Here It Goes...

Here It Goes...

Really...I Am Going Right Now!

Really...I Am Going Right Now!

And climb…

Next Set Of Stairs...These Aren't The Scary Ones.

Next Set Of Stairs...These Aren't The Scary Ones.

A bit of the way up I had to have a talk with myself to convince me to continue up the steep, small, and claustrophobic staircases. Several people, mostly adults, were coming down the wrong way because their talk with themselves hadn’t gone too well. I vowed to make it to the top. After all what would Tony think if I didn’t do it??

Enjoying The View While Having Some Internal Dialogue

Enjoying The View While Having Some Internal Dialogue

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I’ve walked on fire many times, ate fire, and broke a board with my bare hand. How could this be more difficult than those things?? As I continued up those damn stairs I kept asking myself ‘why is it so important to kiss that damn stone?’ and secondly, ‘Why on God’s Earth had I decided to drink not one but two cups of highly caffeinated beverages this morning? Did I really feel I would need something artificial to get my heart racing today of all days??’ Sometimes my actions baffle even me.

At every turn there were people coming back down the one way spiral stairs after losing their battle with them selves and wanting nothing more than to touch their feet to the solid earth below and at every turn I wanted nothing more than to follow them – no, let’s be honest here I really wanted to cling to them with my eyes closed and scream ‘Take me with you please!’ but I knew if I didn’t do this it would be one of those things that I had wished I had done.

So I continued upwards praying all the way with Matt right behind me. I had to keep calling to him to make sure he was there with me because I wasn’t about to even look behind me until it was absolutely necessary for me to come back down. Every time he said ‘I am here’ and it gave me the confidence to keep going up (not to mention if I turned around I probably won’t be able to get past him with out a fight).

As you can see there are no pictures of this spiral ascension hell (just as there are none of the decent either) as I was not about to pause for a pretty blog picture! I have my boundaries when it comes to journalism and this was one of them.

At the top I was relieved and stressed. Now that I was actually up here I HAVE TO kiss that damn Blarney Stone!! There walking around the top of the castle were the people that had climbed those stairs in front of me. Some had already kissed the stone and were just admiring the view (Crazy people! Don’t they know how high we are off the ground?? Some wonderfully experienced person in front of me on the stairs felt it helpful to tell us all that there are over 300 spiraling stairs to get to the top! Thank you very much!!)

Others were patiently awaiting their turn to kiss that famous stone that gives you eloquence of speech and that Irish ability to Blarney. After all some really famous people have apparently kiss the Blarney Stone among them Winston Churchill, President Bill Clinton, and the Glasgow Comedian Billy Connolly. They had all survived and done fairly well for themselves hadn’t they?

People Kissing The Blarney Stone...View From Below Using Zoom Lens

People Kissing The Blarney Stone...View From Below Using Zoom Lens

So when it was my turn to kiss the stone I thought I might go to the back of the line like I did the first time I attempted to walk on fire but the kindly Irish man who makes sure you don’t fall on your head to an untimely death below coaxed me on and finally with a little good will from all I gave in and went with it.

I sat down with my back to the stone and the drop below (there are bars there to prevent people from dropping straight through and down but that really wasn’t much of a comfort to me honestly). The gentleman leaned me back and assured me that he had a good grip on me and he wouldn’t let go. Then he instructed me on how to hold the bars behind me for leverage. I then instructed myself not to try to look down or it would all be over with and I complied. I just looked at the stone wall now in front of me (albeit upside down though still in front of me) and nearly freaked when the nice Irish gentleman pushed me further back so my lips could actually touch the wall.

As my lips finally touched the cold, slightly moistened wall (it had been raining earlier) I tried not to think of the hygiene issue of it all. Perhaps I should have brought some hand sanitizer with me? Well, too late now!

Before I knew it I was being helped back up by the Irish gentleman who was now my bestest friend for not letting me fall through the grates. Now it was Matt’s turn.

Matt stepped up like a trooper. He said later that he felt if I did it he could do it. So without hesitation he did as instructed and my bestest Irish gentleman friend became Matt’s bestest friend immediately too.

Matt leaned back and grabbed the bars and pulled himself to the Blarney Stone to kiss it. Just as he kissed he let go of one hand and waved to me while he simultaneously kissed the Stone. With that he pulled himself up with the assistance of the our bestest Irish gentleman (I guess I should have asked him his name…probably would have been nice to do).

Matt and I kissed each other in celebration of pushing ourselves past our comfort zone once again (as if moving to Europe wasn’t enough for one month) and faced the task ahead of getting down off this really high building!!

Yes, We're All The Way Up There!

Yes, We're All The Way Up There!

We waited until there was a long enough gap between the last person to go down those damn stairs and us and headed down with the intention of not stopping until we reached the ground and that’s exactly what we did. No photos, no sight seeing, just straight down in the fastest way imaginable without falling down the stairs.

At the bottom we realized that neither of us had the foresight in our adrenaline and caffeine surging brains to take any pictures of each other kissing that damn stone!! Now we were left with the option of climbing back up there and doing it again for the sake of the blog and a souvenir of the event or just remembering it as it was in our heads.

After much deliberation…oh okay, not much really…about a millisecond…we decided we were okay with having no photos and it would take an act of Congress to get us to do that again today!!

Relieved at our reaching a consensus in such a timely manner we headed off to enjoy the rest of the grounds and the beautiful Irish sunshine (really it was sunny all day)!

Me Relaxing After The Blarney Stone Ordeal

Me Relaxing After The Blarney Stone Ordeal

First we came upon this really cool looking tree and decided it would make a nice picture.

My New Abode...

My New Abode...

Just down the trail from the tree we came upon Blarney House. This is a castle in itself and is currently home to someone who drives a BMW among other things. Nice little weekend getaway, wouldn’t you say?

Me Infront Of My New Abode...Who's Going To Tell The Owners?

Me Infront Of My New Abode...Who's Going To Tell The Owners??

I decided that was my new house and started imagining what it would be like to live there with these grounds. The rest of the day wondering around I kept thinking about being the owner of this magnificent place.

Lime Kiln

Lime Kiln

Just down the path we came across the old Lime Kiln. I have to admit that I am not really sure what a Lime Kiln is but Matt and I thought it might have to do with making the bricks, etcetera that the building on the property were made of.

Closer View of Lime Kiln

Closer View of Lime Kiln

Me Enjoying The View On The Lime Kiln

Me Enjoying The View From The Lime Kiln

Continuing down the path we came across an old guard shed and Matt having just scaled the stairs of Blarney Castle and kissing the stone felt good enough to put on his rock wall shoes and scaled the outside of the guard shed.

Rock Climber Extraordinaire...

Rock Climber Extraordinaire...

I decided to keep my feel firmly planted on the ground and just pose in the doorway…

Standing Guard...

Standing Guard...

Wandering on around every turn we kept finding even more beautiful landscapes. This is the Ireland I’ve always hear about and I was so happy to be here and just drink it in.

There He Goes Climbing Again...Must Be The Cappuccino

There He Goes Climbing Again...Must Be The Cappuccino

Such Cool Looking Trees...

Such Cool Looking Trees...

What a Beautiful Scene...I Could Sit Here All Day

What a Beautiful Scene...I Could Sit Here All Day

Does It Get Any Greener And More Beautiful Than This?

Does It Get Any Greener And More Beautiful Than This?

We found a nice wooden walk way across the water where there was a beautiful waterfall. A nice lady asked if we would like her to take a photo of us together with the waterfall. We, of course, said ‘Yes’.

Me And Matt With Waterfall

Me And Matt With Waterfall

Afterwards while admiring the view and take pictures we met another friend. This one was black and white and came bearing a lovely specimen of a stick in his mouth.

Our New Found Furry Friend

Our New Found Furry Friend

He eyed us casually and then when he figured he’d found a sucker in the both of us he dropped that stick at Matt’s feet and stared at him with intensity, tail wagging.

Bringing The Stick To Matt

Bringing The Stick To Matt

Waiting For The Stick To Fly

Waiting For The Stick To Fly

After Matt obliged our new found, furry friend picked up the stick, looked at me and dropped it at my feet. I, of course, not wanting to disappoint him picked up the stick and after trying to psyche him out a bit threw it for him to fetch.

I could only imagine what it was like for this dog living on this beautiful land with virtually an unlimited amount of new playmates strolling in and out of his backyard on a daily basis. I wonder how many people who have been there before bring him a treat or two as well. I know if I go to Blarney Castle again I might just have a biscuit or two in my pocket for my fetching little friend.

Then it was on to more beautiful Irish landscapes….

I Love This Picture!

I Love This Picture!

I Could Live Right Here!!

I Could Live Right Here!!

Matt Chilling Out

Matt Chilling Out

Then we followed this pathway that led us to a pasture where there were cows in the fields. It was beautiful.

Look!! Cows!!

Look!! Cows!!

Me With My Cow Friends

Me With My Cow Friends

And it was then that I noticed this beautiful mommy cow feeding her little baby calf. How incredibly beautiful!! Man, I love cows! Look at the beauty in that mommy cows eyes. Absolutely beautiful and such peaceful animals too.

Mommy and Baby Cow

Mommy and Baby Cow

Mommy and Baby Cow

Mommy and Baby Cow

We could have stayed here forever but it was closing time and our bus would be coming shortly. So we headed out the Castle entrance and back in to the little village of Blarney to find something to eat (it turned out to be a smoothie) and headed to the bus stop for our ride back to Cork City Center and the Hostel to get ready for our Thai dinner with Doug in Douglas Village.

Before we left Blarney though I had to challenge the authorities a bit….

Taking On The Garda...Or Not.

Taking On The Garda...Or Not.

Oh okay…it wasn’t so much challenge the authorities as it was pose with the Garda car when no one was looking…quite the rebel, aren’t I?

That night we enjoyed a lovely Thai dinner in Douglas Village and then headed back to the hostel for a few hours sleep. Then it was back to the airport for our German Wings flight back to Koeln, Germany.

One other thing that I found interesting about Ireland is that all of the signs are written in English and Gaelic. Now I’ve known that Gaelic was one of the official languages of Ireland but I never realized that it was so widespread. I found myself wondering whether there were that many people that actually spoke Gaelic to warrant the signs or whether it was just to keep the tradition of it all alive. If any of you have any insight on that I would love to hear it.

Sign On Bus To Cork

Sign On Bus To Cork

Signs In Cork City Center

Signs In Cork City Center

Stay tuned for some videos coming up of more pictures. We took so many beautiful pictures of Ireland that it was impossible to put them all in this blog. So I’ll be making some videos with music, etcetera for your viewing enjoyment.

Until then Matt and I send our love to you all…

Categories: County Cork, Ireland | Leave a comment

Cork, Ireland – August 18-20, 2008: DAY ONE

Cork, Ireland – August 18-20, 2008: DAY ONE

On Our Way To Ireland

On Our Way To Ireland

Our Ryanair flight to Ireland was comfortable and on time this time (as opposed to the one leaving Germany) and as usual, not one to be a great chatty travel companion, Matt was asleep as soon as they started the engines and barely lifted off the ground.

Me and My Traveling Companion

Me and My Traveling Companion

Not one to let a photo opportunity pass me by I decided to document what it’s like to travel with Matt on an airplane by taking photos much to the amusement of the lady across the aisle from us. He didn’t even flinch when they came around with the snack cart either. That should say something. I mean what man doesn’t wake up when there’s food involved?

First Glance At Ireland

First Glance At Ireland

A few minutes before landing the clouds parted just enough to give us a view of Ireland below us and then the view made way for clouds and rain as we landed. At last I would be visiting the place where my mother’s family came from…County Cork, Ireland. Unfortunately not much is known about our family when they were in Ireland but I wanted to feel the vibes of my Irish side in person and at last that was about to happen.

Ahh...Ireland

Ahh...Ireland

After landing we got our luggage and headed to the airport connection to Sheila’s Hostel in downtown Cork where we were staying. We were let off at the bus stop and told to walk to the next corner, York Street, and turn left and that Sheila’s was at the end of the street.

Matt Up The Hill To The Hostel

Matt Up The Hill To The Hostel

Turning on to York Street we were faced with a steep incline of a street that reminded us of the streets of San Francisco except this time we had baggage!! We both took a deep breath and hiked up the hill leg muscles screaming the whole way.

Sheila's Hostel, Cork, Ireland

Sheila's Hostel, Cork, Ireland

As we came to the top of the hill we saw Sheila’s right to the right of us in all its blue glory. At last we had arrived and the hard part was over. Leaving on Wednesday would be all down hill. Checking in they greeted us with lovely Irish hospitality and informed us our room was 305 and it was a private room as we had requested.

Taking our room key we headed to our home for the next two days and discovered that 305 was on the third floor (actually forth by American standards) and there was no lift (that’s elevator for those of you who don’t know). So we took a deep breath picked up our bags and hiked the steep stairs to our room.

Father Mathew Statue on St. Patrick Street, Cork City

Father Mathew Statue on St. Patrick Street, Cork City

After a bit of a rest we realized that we were really hungry and needed to find a nice place to eat soon. So we headed out down the hill and across the bridge on St. Patrick’s Street to the City Center where our bus driver said we would find tons of places to eat down the little alleyways and that all were good. We finally decided on a little hole in the wall place where we were told by several older Irish regulars who were coming out that it was the best place to eat. Upon entering the restaurant on the second floor the smells that greeted us told me that we were not lead astray. I felt like I was home in my mom’s house and she was making dinner. It was so perfectly a home cooked meal and we loved every bite of it.

Matt on the bridge Cork City, Ireland

Matt on the bridge Cork City, Ireland

View from the bridge, Cork City

View from the bridge, Cork City

More Views From The Bridge

More Views From The Bridge

After being brought back to regular energy levels by the wonderful food we set out to have a look around Cork City for a bit. The city is not really inspiring by any stretch of the imagination but that’s expected considering that it’s been really a port city where they built ships and such and you can see in the pictures above that there are still ships in the harbor there.

St. Patrick's Street Towards Sheila's Hostel

St. Patrick's Street Towards Sheila's Hostel

After a bit of a look around in the City Center we decided to head back to the hostel in order to get ready to meet a chiropractor in Douglas Village which is a little village about 15 minutes away from the City Center.

Trinity Presbyterian Church

Trinity Presbyterian Church

On the way back to the hostel we detoured to see Trinity Presbyterian Church which is an old church whose steeple is viewable from our room at the hostel. It’s a nice old church with that historical charm that us Americans find so endearing.

York Inn on York Street, Cork

York Inn on York Street, Cork

Then it was back up that San Francisco hill to clean up and get ready for our meeting with Doug in Douglas Village.

Once ready the receptionist told us the quickest way to get there is by taxi and she called a cab for us as we waited outside for him to come.

Matt Outside Sheila's Hostel Waiting For Taxi

Matt Outside Sheila's Hostel Waiting For Taxi

The cab driver was a really nice gentleman who kindly asked us to put on our seat belts as it was the law in Ireland. He also stated that a seat belt is a peculiar thing because it’s too late to reach for it when you really need it. He later informed us as we waited at the stop light that the motorcycle Garda (police) next to us had the job of checking that everyone in the vehicle had his or her seat belt on. We watched in awe as he made no effort to hide the fact that he was checking everyone’s seat belt in the car next to him as well as inside our cab. The cab driver also mentioned that the one that doesn’t wear the seat belt is the one who actually gets the ticket in Ireland so it’s financially feasible to keep it on as well.

Arriving in Douglas Village Matt and I looked around and got a good feeling for the Village. We found Doug’s Chiropractic practice easily enough and went in to meet him. Doug is a Canadian Chiropractor who has been living in Ireland for about nine years and he built his practice from scratch about seven years ago and is now looking to sell it.

I can not state more strongly how beautiful and perfect he made his practice. Everything from the system he uses (WLP for those chiropractors out there) to the aesthetics of the place…the lighting, the soft music, the smells, the materials used in the office (woods and stones, very earthy things) made this a place of comfort and refuge from the work day or dreary weather outside. It was absolutely amazing in my opinion. Very well done, unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures because it was a kind of a business type meeting and I didn’t think it appropriate.

Doug himself is an amazing, goal oriented, Tony Robbins type of person who believes that if you are going to do something you should do it as perfectly as you can and constantly work on making it better. So why, you might ask, is he selling this masterpiece that by the way is really successful? Well, he’s done what a lot of amazing, goal oriented, Tony Robbins type of people do when they go full tilt for so long….they burn out.

He wants time to pursue other things in his life for a while like maybe having a relationship and children and pursuing a course of Music Production and travel more. We tried to talk him out of selling his baby and think about the other possibilities that might let him do all that stuff without giving up his masterpiece. He said for now he will continue to look for a buyer but if he changes his mind he’ll let us know.

After our meeting with Doug we all agreed that we would meet the next night at the Thai restaurant below his practice around 8 p.m. and off we went in a cab back to the hostel.

Murphy's and Bulmers at the Pub

Murphy's and Bulmer's At The Pub

When we arrived back in Cork City Center Matt and I decided we would stop in at a local pub for a pint of something and to soak in the essence of Ireland. I had a Murphy’s which is the Cork equivalent of Guinness. Guinness is brewed in Dublin and Murphy’s is brewed in Cork so of course I had to try the local brew. Quite tasty and satisfying I must say. Matt opted for a pint of Bulmer’s which is an Irish Cider brewed from apples. It’s really tasty…like drinking fizzy apple juice with a kick.

After that we headed up the hill and the four flights of stairs to our private room at the hostel for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we were going to Blarney Castle and we must be rested.

Stay tuned for our trip to Blarney Castle.

Categories: County Cork, Ireland | Leave a comment

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