Category Archives: Ireland

Like a Magical Wizard Perched on a Cliff

The world knows I don’t like fish. I make it a known point on this blog. With that comes a lack of desire to go fishing. Pair that with being on a motion-sick inducing boat to catch said fish, which equates to the worst time ever. I had a feeling I would be going fishing in Ireland, based on the loads of fishing photos Ciaran has posted on his Facebook. Even though I’m not keen on fishing, I was up for anything he suggested. I was just happy to be experiencing a new country.

We went to a beach about fifteen minutes from the center of Cork with Ciarans fishing rods in hand. Two of his buddies also came along for the ride. Ciaran had a couple very large, professionally built rods we could use. It’s the kind where it can catch multiple fish at once. I’ve fished maybe once or twice in my life but it was using a simple rod, with one hook on the end. We lined up near the shore as everyone set up their rods to cast into the sea. I was just glad we weren’t fishing on a boat! I don’t remember the name of the fish they caught but it didn’t really take long to catch them. It was almost instantaneous as soon as the line hit the water, fish were biting. I stood there watching, hoping they wouldn’t ask me to take the fish off the hook. Spiders, snakes, bugs, slugs, any of those are completely fine for me to touch. But a fish? I wouldn’t even touch it with a stick. They’re fugly looking, with those lifeless beady eyes…I can’t do it. When one of the fish fell off the hook onto the sand, at me feet, I just looked at the thing, not wanting to pick it up…even though Ciaran asked me to. Nope.

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Ciaran asked me if I wanted to cast a line and gave me a brief lesson on the proper way to do it. Sure, why not? I was doing a horrible job though based on the yells I was getting: “Don’t wind it up so much!”, “No need to flick so hard!”, “Don’t let the rod touch the sand!”, “You gotta do it like this!”. Ey carumba! I did catch something though. I caught the line of the other guy fishing next to me. Ciaran was a patient one, but I decided I was better off as an innocent by-standing supporter. I’ll just hold the bag open for them to put their fish in. At least I got some sand to add to my growing collection.

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The Cliffs of Moher

One of the things we really wanted to do was visit the Cliffs of Moher which were situated to the west coast of Ireland. The drive would be a few hours, but would soon prove to be worth the effort. The cliffs were massive! Multiple cliffs, as high as a mountain overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic.

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We would walk from peak to peak, bravely overlooking the perches into the ocean. One could easily fall over the edge with a simple misstep or push, as there were no barricades to block us. The Cliffs of Moher supported my previous notion of Ireland being a magical place. It felt like this could have been in those movies set in medieval times where elves and wizards rule the lands and a dragon could appear at any moment. My imagination likes to run wild sometimes.

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We stayed at the cliffs for awhile before we made our way back to Cork. Ciaran decided to take me to a hurling match. What the heck is hurling?I’ve never heard of such a sport! It’s the most popular sport in Ireland according to the locals I have met here. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s like a combination of field hockey, soccer, and baseball. Each team of fifteen players, each with a wooden stick called a hurler, try to swat a ball similar to a baseball in the opposing teams goal. One point to hurl the ball into the field goal and three points to get the ball into the actual net. The crowd was really into it!

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I spent a few days in Cork and decided before I left Ireland, I should go up north and experience Dublin for a bit. I said my goodbyes to Ciaran and his gracious family and took a bus to Dublin, the nations capital. There I met up with Shane and we explored the city for a bit. I also had my first Irish Stew at one of the many pubs scattered everywhere in the city. I liked Cork, but I think I liked Dublin a little more. There was a lot more to do and had tons of sights to see.

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Unfortunately we weren’t in Dublin long enough to really get our hands dirty, but we did manage to catch a football match thanks to Shane. He won some tickets and we caught a friendly match between the Republic of Ireland vs Oman. It was at the Aviva stadium. I enjoyed it a lot!

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Thanks Shane for that! Shortly after, we parted ways. He headed back outside of the city and I went to a hostel to get ready for my early flight out of the country. Where was I going next? Well, I never intended on going to England on this leg of the trip, but here I was with a booked flight to Manchester to visit my old traveling buddy, Lucy Wright. Remember her? She’s been part of this blog since I started blogging! I met her two years ago in South Africa and reunited with her last year in Vietnam. It was time to go to England; Sheffield to be more specific. My flight wasn’t until six in the morning which meant I had to take a really early bus from the hospital to the airport. I was afraid to go to sleep in the hostel out of fear of sleeping through my alarm and missing my flight, so I chilled out in the lobby with my bags playing on my iPad. Thankfully, there was another traveler there from Switzerland waiting around too. He and I talked awhile which made time go by faster until my bus finally came and picked me up. These early morning bus and flights suck bad, but it happens.

I’m going back to England!

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The Call to The Celtic

I never anticipated going to Ireland; at least not on this particular trip. I was supposed to head straight into Germany right after the Netherlands. One day while still in Ede, I received a message from a friend I met while in Las Vegas of all places. His name is Ciaran and I met him and two of his fellow Irish lads while we were on route to skydive. He invited me to come visit them in Cork, Ireland for awhile before I headed to Germany. I had no good reason not to. I’ve always wanted to see Ireland and this would be a perfect opportunity! “I’m in!” I responded. Little did I know that I would be heading to Ireland to visit these three people in just about a months time.

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The flight from Amsterdam to Cork was just over an hour. I was out cold the entire flight from the lack of sleep I’ve been getting lately. I was so out of it, that I didn’t realize we landed until I woke up and looked out the window. Man, that never happens. Of course since I had a US passport, I had to stand in the immigration line with all the other Non-Europeans. It was a pretty quick moving line…that is…until it was my turn to present my passport. The man at the counter was an old one, with bushy gray hair that sprang out from the sides like he was the Wolverine. He had a legit full on Irish accent. “What brings you to Ireland?” he said. “Just visiting some friends.” Could I even call them friends yet? I just meant them briefly in Vegas.“How long are you staying for?” he asked as he flipped through the filled-up pages of my passport. “For about a week.” I responded. I actually have no idea…whenever I feel like leaving. “Do you have a return ticket?” he asked. That is the horrible question that always gets me stuck in airports. “No, I planned on booking a flight out once I settled in.” He looked up at me, still riffling through my passport. I think he was just checking out all the different stamps of all the places I’ve been. “Where does your friend live?” “I have no idea” I said. “I’ve never been to Ireland.” “How do you know him?” That’s the question where I knew I was going to be stuck here for awhile. “I met him in Vegas.” “In Vegas eh?” he responded profusely. “Yup, I met him and his friends while skydiving there! He’s actually probably waiting for me. He’s picking me up from here.” “Do you have his number so I can call and confirm your arrangements?” he asked. Umm, actually I don’t think I did. I can’t make calls outside of the States and we’ve only been in contact through social media messaging via Wi-Fi. “Actually, no I don’t have it but I can text him and ask for it.” “Do that otherwise I can’t let you go through yet.” he said. I connected to the airports Wi-Fi and messaged Ciaran telling him of the squabble I was in and that I needed his phone number. No response. So then I messaged his friends, Shane and Amie, asking them the same thing. Still no response. I sat there for a few minutes and still no luck. “Still no response?” asked the Irish Wolverine. “Not yet. But eventually he’ll wonder where I am and he’ll have to check his messages.”

Irish wolverine continued to flip through my passport as time went by with no response from Ciaran or the others. “How much money do you have? he asked. “On me? About 40 euros. “How much do you have access to from your bank?” I was a little taken back from the question. I never had anyone ask me how much money was in my bank account. Are they even allowed to ask that? If I told him how much I actually had, he’d think I’ve been smuggling drugs or something, especially with all the different stamps I had from the most random places in the world. “I have enough” I responded starkly. “It’s just difficult because you don’t have a return ticket” he said. I went on telling him about how I was visiting friends throughout Europe with no concrete plans in mind. And just as I was starting to convince him, Ciaran finally responded with his phone number. Soon enough, Irish Wolverine called him and confirmed everything I just told him. “Alright, enjoy your time in Ireland!” he said as he stamped my visa in my passport. Why does your stamp have to be so big Ireland? I’m running out of room!

Ciaran scooped me up and we went back to his parents house in a part of Cork called Douglas. There I met his dog Spencer and his pet catbunny rabbit. That rabbit was free to hop around the house and had all the qualities of a typical lazy house cat. I met his folks afterwards who had really thick Irish English accents. It was actually really difficult to understand them, especially when the three of them conversed amongst each other. They speak so fast, it’s as if they were speaking an entirely different language! They were very pleasant though, even if it was hard to make out what they were saying.

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We spent a chunk of the afternoon debunking many of the Irish stereotypes I’ve heard of back home. Meanwhile, Ciaran was planning where to show me around first. There’s a place called Kinsale nearby where Fort Charles is held. It sits near the shores of the Atlantic and we thought we go there first. A couple of his friends joined along and that’s when I realized, whenever he spoke to me, he slowed down his speech. His friends speak as lighting fast as his parents do. All of their words blend together, its almost as if they were mumbling really fast. Throw in all of those Irish-specific articulations and then I’m all sorts of baffled. “We’ll train your ears” Ciaran would say. Anyhow, onwards to Kinsale!

I have a fascination with castles and forts. They’re just so cool looking and rich with an unknown history of wealth, wars, and stories of kings and queens. Fort Charles was a fort built back in the day to protect the lands from an English fleet.

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We walked around the fort, going through all of the quadrants and dark, mossy rooms. You could tell just by looking, a lot of the fort has been blown to smithereens by cannonballs launched from the Atlantic.

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The next day, Ciaran and I went to Blarney to do what it’s known to do there: kiss the Blarney Stone. I completely forgot that was here until Ciaran brought it up. At the very top of Blarney Castle, there lies a stone embedded with the high walls. It’s said that whoever kisses this stone will be embraced with eloquence. I want to be embraced with eloquence!

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Blarney isn’t all about the castle and stone kissing. It’s a large area of land with fabled forests of fairies, caves, and a river trail that lead to small waterfalls. The forest was interesting, not because of the fairies, but because there were certain areas where witches would reside. There was a huge tree in the forest and at the base there was a kitchen area carved out where witches would stew a brew.

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There were even giant stones placed in a particular fashion where witches would…perform? Who knows. One of the things I found interesting about Ireland before even coming here; I knew it was filled of myths and stories of leprechauns, witches, and castles galore. Throw in the random woman playing a harp and flute near the pathway and I felt like I went back in time. It sounds silly, but really that’s the vibe I was getting. And I liked it!

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Don’t even get me started on the food. So far, Ciaran has not disappointed with his suggestions. First there were the chicken rolls near his house earlier, but after Blarney, we went to a special place in Cork called K.C. & Son & Son’s. It’s the only place in Ireland where you’d stand in line for nearly an hour just to order some carry out food. Not just any carryout, a king creole and chicken bombay. It’s a thick pita made with magic ,filled with battered chicken, cheese, lettuce, some special sauce, and more magic. It’s the only place in Ireland you can find it, and there long queues every single day to prove it.

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You can’t it eat there, you have to take it home and chow it down!

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It looks messy but I promise you that it’s the best thing ever! It was the perfect way to end our night. Tomorrow we would head to the west coast of Ireland to walk the extraordinary Cliffs of Moher!