Ireland: Part 6 – Cliffs of Moher & Dunguaire Castle

This is really long as it is our longest day in Ireland combined with coming home.

Got up very early, long drive ahead of us. Ate a breakfast of grocery pastries and tea (our room came with a tea and coffee drawer complete with several types of instant coffee and tea, cups and saucers and an electric tea kettle). We were in the car before 8 am.

Now I am going to say something controversial. I wasn’t impressed with Ireland. At least the interior of the island and the thousands of shades of green.

I know, I know. But see here is the thing – it looks like Iowa. Those of you who consider the center part of the USA “flyover” country have no idea what it looks like on the ground. And Nebraska looks nothing like Iowa. But with family and friends all throughout Iowa as well many many visits throughout time I am very familiar with this gorgeous state. It is identical to Ireland. I see now why so very many Irish settled in this part of the country. Including my family lines.

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See? Any Iowans out there care to back me up? Beautiful regardless. Just extremely familiar to me and my mother.

Some other photos I took during the day of the countryside (not on the way there):

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Again all pretty similar.

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Hard to see but this is a bog.

I am also sharing something I didn’t think I ever would. I am sharing my last name. Ok not my current, married, last name but my pre-marriage (I vomit a little whenever someone says “maiden” name). My last name isn’t Irish (in this line I actually descend from Germans over 250 years ago through Maryland and Pennsylvania). But there is a town in Ireland with the last name – Enfield. It was on the way to the Cliffs from Dublin so of course we got off the roadway to take photos.

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Just a little town in Ireland. But I am happy I stopped.

Originally we were going to hit Galway first then do the Cliffs. Instead we decided to do the Cliffs first. It was a much longer drive than we anticipated.

This is just as you get to the outskirts of the Burren. It is called Gragan.

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But to get to the Cliffs of Moher you have have to drive on the scariest road I have ever encountered in my life!!! And I am from Colorado where they have roads with only one side and a cliff on the other! No these were narrow with no shoulder and thick brush and rock walls on either side.

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The speed limit was 100KPH (about 60 MPH)! And we encountered a number of people who thought that was a MINIMUM along with buses going about that fast. *Runs away in fear* This was frightening!

Granted finally getting the Cliffs of Moher was worth it.

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Once we arrived at the Visitor’s Center we explored the center a bit then headed out to the Cliffs. Did not hike much but it reminded me of the Grand Canyon. Something you have seen so many photos of, are so familiar with, that the whole thing just seems…fake. I dunno, it’s hard to describe. But I felt the same there as I did at the Grand Canyon last year. Beautiful but eh I am over it.

After we got our fill and took as many photos as possible (way more than I posted here) we walked back to the Visitor’s Center and got something to eat in the cafe. It was probably the worst food we had the entire time. Prepackaged.

Then went shopping in the most complete gift shop I had seen so far. Bought a small bodhrain (traditional drum) with decorations among many other touristy things. I have since discovered it drives my husband nuts. So win-win!

Once we decided we had enough we headed out to the car and drove a different route through the center part of the Burren back to Kinvara and Galway.

Of course we drove the long way through (plenty of time). And drove past Leamaneh Castle on the way to the Poulnabrone Dolmen.

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The dolmen is a portal tomb dating from approximately 4200 BCE to 2900 BCE.

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And it is in the middle of, well not nothing, but it is very barren. Beautiful, but barren. Never seen anything like it. Is it any wonder that the Hunger hit this area hardest? I can directly trace one of my family lines to this area of Ireland as result of the Hunger. That held powerful sway while I was standing there. I will freely admit it.

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Anyway from there we drove up to Galway and basically discovered that this city is extremely confusing! Once upon a time there were several villages around Galway but it is now all Galway. Just made for confusing driving. Ultimately we never found the docks, were afraid we would get too lost and decided to just drive back to Kinvara and wait for the start of dinner.

We took a round about way back into Kinvara and waited outside Dunguaire Castle until it was time to head in for our castle banquet dinner.

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I walked all around the outside of the castle (TINY!) while waiting. Only a 5 minute walk. My mother had no idea I had even done it until I mentioned it to her the next day. Small castle. Spent a chunk of time waiting in the yard. Beautiful evening.

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Then once the doors opened we were given a glass of mead while we waited in the main area (was cellar once upon a time according to the signs) for everyone to arrive and for the show to get started.

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This is a painting near the entrance that shows the castle as it was in 1568.

They did a little rhyming welcome speech (in polyester Renessaince garb of course) and then headed up 2 flights of stairs to a hall lined with tables setup with our first course and pitchers of alcohol (best thing ever!). From there it was a bit of showmanship, in rhyme, alternating with courses.

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Salad with smoked salmon and soda bread; leek and potato soup; chicken with mushroom sauce, carrots, green beans, and potatoes; and apple pie with whipped cream for dessert

Once we got to dessert the main show began with lots of poetry and song focused on Galway and County Clare and Ireland. It was beautiful and informative. Too bad I was surrounded by Americans and Canadians! Oh and no video allowed just photos.

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After that was complete they opened the gift shop up for a bit. I bought yet another necklace (I had 5 now). A few more photos and then back to the car just as the sun was setting.

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Seriously some of my favorite photos of my entire trip.

We drove back to Enniskerry in the dark and got back to the hotel about 10:45 pm (a 2 3/4 hr drive). So there was bit of Facetime with my husband and then updating of Facebook and onto bed.

The next morning (Tuesday May 7) was our day going home. Or at least back to the States. I took a shower, got dressed, packed up. Then went and had one last Irish breakfast at Gordon Ramsey.

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I look at this picture and sigh now. So good. My mom then made a quick run over to Avoca/Powerscourt Gardens to pick up a few things she had decided she wanted after all (like Bewley’s coffee which she now has used all up and will be finding a source Stateside). In the mean time I went through everything to make sure nothing was forgotten.

We drove to the airport (about an hour away), dropped off the car, checked into our flight and went through Irish security. Much like ours honestly. Though anyone with trainers could go through without taking off their shoes. We waited on the other side where the main shopping area is. Last few bits of souvenirs so I spent nearly every Euro dime I had left (except for a few I had set aside previously for my scrapbook). This was all that was left after I plugged the remainder into a vending machine.

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Not too shabby! I gave them to my mom to pass out to nephews, little cousins, etc.

From there we went through Customs. Dublin is very unique as far as European airports are concerned as they have a US Customs office on site and you go through Customs before going to your gate. Thus when you arrive it is just like a domestic flight. If you fly from Europe to the USA at all this is supposed to save you oodles of time. Never having it done it any other way I have no idea. I do know I had ZERO people in front of me the entire time, from filling out my form to sitting down at my gate. It takes me longer to go through security at the Omaha airport (and that is 10 minutes, max).

So we head down 1 escalator to another floor, complete our Customs forms and head on through. I was concerned about this as well but even as a newbie it was easy. A rather bored woman asked me what food I was bringing back (since I had that checked on the form), just tea and commercially packaged candy. She asked me if I was traveling with anyone, where I was headed and then asked me to confirm that the suitcase on the screen (my checked piece) was mine. Once I did that I was free to go.

I then waited in a hall beyond for a minute, decided it wasn’t worth it standing in the middle of an empty hall so I proceeded to head to our gate. That involved going through security again, this time it was counted as US security. Basically they x-ray everything including your shoes but there is no metal detectors. Down another hall and there was the gate. I settled in, finished off my Euros in the vending machine and waited.

I waited a really long time for my mother! Turns out she told them she had seeds and Customs went through everything and took them. She had no idea they were banned and I had no idea either since I have 2 black thumbs and would never, didn’t actually, buy things I would have to plant. I must have ignored that part on the website. But I knew how much alcohol I could bring back without paying a duty!

Speaking of alcohol since I was waiting for our fight I wandered over to the one place I could buy anything anywhere near these gates. All the gates in this area go to the USA since it is past US Customs and as a result there is nothing here, just a tiny cafe with a crappy limited pre-packaged selection and a kiosk to buy last minute souvenirs like keychains. But the kiosk also has an entire wall of liquor. On that wall I found a couple of different things I could buy and bring home and settled on a bottle of mead, the same mead we had had the night before in Kinvara. I love mead but it is hard to get in the US. I had no idea how I was going to get it home from NYC (my clothes were in compression cubes and that bag was PACKED tight) but I ultimately decided to just wing it and figure it out in NYC.

Eventually my mother showed up. We waited. The flight got delayed 45 minutes due to a mechanical issue with our plane and we were moved to another gate & plane. Got loaded up and took off about 4 pm. Honestly the flight back sucked worst than the flight there. I was literally trapped by the guy in front of me. I could not get out. The flight attendant had to tell him to put his seat up so I could eat once they brought food around. Hated it. Still worth it but hated it completely.

Oh and the food was better going to Dublin than coming home. Sorry Ireland. Just how it is. I did get a scone and tea on the way back though. How delightful!

We arrived at JFK in NYC at exactly 6 pm. Stopped at an ATM to get cash and then picked up our bags. Took a cab to the hotel, which was right next to LaGuardia. Ordered pizza to be delivered for dinner. It was just ok. I didn’t expect much honestly. Watched some TV, called my husband and went to bed about 9 pm Eastern time (our bodies thinking it is 2 am).

Woke up at 3 am naturally. Sigh. And repacked everything. We took the hotel shuttle (aka a guy with a minivan) to the airport at 4 am. Checked into our flights, checked our suitcases. But nothing was open in the airport yet except for one place. So bought a crappy bagel and some coffee, which I spilled everywhere. It was then time to say goodbye to my mother. My flight left at 6 am and my mother’s was an hour after that. I flew on 2 mostly empty flights (the middle seat was empty both legs), first to St. Louis where I got in an hour early. That means I had tons of time to get Dunkin Donuts. I love Dunkin and Omaha just acquired their first Dunkin after 19 years of being absent here. Opened 2 weeks ago.

Anyhow then flew from St. Louis to home. One great thing I love about Omaha is that picking up your checked suitcase is easy peasy – I was off my flight, with my bag, waiting for my husband within 15 minutes of landing.

And that’s that. The jetlag coming home was way way worse than going. I have no idea why. It took me about a week to be normal again. Argh.

Only 1 part left – I am going to review every service used, every place gone (in short form) and basically sum up the trip for anyone else thinking of going to Ireland. Oh I guess 2 parts. I’ll share my scrapbook with you as well since it is complete except for a few food photos. My next project is to create a proper photobook. And that means going through about 3,000 photos. Argh.

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