Monday, August 27, 2012

Laethanta saoire teaghlaigh in Eirinn (Family Vacation in Ireland)

Hello ~ Ciao ~ Dia duit. The Griswalds I mean the Gilleo's are at it again. With only 9 months left (give or take a month or two or more or less, come on this is the military we are talking about) of our Italian assignment, we are trying to get in as much traveling as our pocketbooks will allow. I can't believe that this is our last summer here and soon we will be stateside again. After finding out in 2010 that we would be spending a few years in Italy the one place on my list that I HAD to see was Paris. I studied French for 2 years in high school and fell in love with the country and their romantic language. We traveled there as a family for Christmas in 2010 and then my mother and I had a girls trip there this summer. So having gotten to have a dream come true twice it was time for Clark to get to enjoy his 'MUST SEE' before we leave Europe. Clark has green in his blood so folks we were off on a grand adventure to Dublin and the rest of the beautiful country of Ireland. Of course it wouldn't be a true Gilleo vacation experiance without something out of the ordinary happening or some kind of hitch in the road. In Paris our bus got stuck in the snow because the cars were blocking the road, on our Barcelona trip a French native kissed our bummper with his car, and we left part of our van on a wall in Arles France (hhhhuummm I won't say who was driving but it wasn't me!) However this time our little laughable moment is at the end of the journey luckily, so hang on for the grand finale.

So after getting to the airport, finding a place to park, and getting through check in and security we were crowded into a corner with another few hundred people to begin the usual Italian cattle call. After pushing and being shoved every which direction we made it to breathing room outside to the plane. When we got on the plane we were lucky enough to get three seats together and then another two seats a few rows up. I am sure that after taking one look at my suspicious kids anyone would have offered up their seat in order to not be placed alone next to a 5, 9, or 12 year old! LOL So we were on our way with a 2 1/2 hour flight ahead we all got comfortable and before we knew it we were over Dublin.

Ireland is the 3rd largest island in Europe and the 20th largest in the world. The population of Ireland is approximately 6.4 million, with Dublin (the capital) having 1,804,156 people. After getting off the plane and fetching our luggage it was time to catch a taxi to our hotel. Man we had the most awesome taxi driver ever. He was more intersted in our lives than he was in talking about Ireland and himself. He chatted with the kids and pointed things out to them, and then gave us some good traveling pointers about Ireland and the surrounding areas. Wish we could have hired him for the week because he was fantastic and I could have listened to him and his Irish accent all day! :) After getting to the hotel our room wasn't ready so we went to the restaurant downstairs to eat. The food was ok but way over priced.....didn't eat there again during our stay. After eating and getting all checked in we figured out how to catch a bus to take us downtown. Perfect there was a stop right outside the hotel and downtown was about a 10 minute bus ride. Brilliant!

After making our way to the heart of Dublin we did a little walking around and taking in the sights. We decided what day tours we wanted to do and went to purchase those.

In walking around and checking out the city we came across a wax museum, well peeps if you are in the Dublin area, I suggest you go spend your money on a beer or a t-shirt or win win a t-shirt with a beer on it before you spend money to go to their wax museum.....very low budget compared to the ones in the states. However it was fun and educational for the kids to learn about some of the famous and important people of Ireland.

After wasting some Euro and about an hour of our lives we ventured on to Hard Rock for some dinner. The Hard Rock is one place we try to visit ok that McDonalds and Starbucks everywhere we travel. We have been to the one in Paris, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, London and of course several ones in the states. Of the ones that we have been to over in Europe our favorite would be between Barcelona and Paris. The one in Dublin comes in last place especailly since EVERY Hard Rock we have ever spent money in has always given a military discount. Considering we usually rack up at least a hundred Euro/Dollars for our meal and then another hundred in their souviner shop the little discount is nice. However I refused to buy additional souviners from this Hard Rock. Anyway the food was delish and the drinks even better so no complaints in that catagory!

After refueling we walked around did a little souviner shopping and then headed back to the hotel. Having lived in and traveled around Europe we have become quite the pros at public transportation and our kids have gotten a taste of many different modes of transportation. :) Although when walking around Dublin Luke wanted to hale a taxi instead of having to walk. LOL

Day 2: Today was a just a casual day of roaming around the heart of Dublin taking in all the sights and doing some shopping and beer tasting.

The O'Connell Monument....nice capture of a pigeon on his head. Wonder if he gets pooped on much.

The boys over the Liffey River. The bridge in the background is called the Ha' penny Bridge. Originally named the Wellington Bridge, was opened in 1816. It got it's nickname Ha' penny because they used to charge a toll in the amount of half penny to cross it.

Our next stop was for the adults....although I was considering letting the kids taste test just so I didn't have to gag down any more Guinness. The Temple Bar is located in Dublin's Cultural Quarter on little tiny cobble stone streets, an area like no other in Dublin. This is the part of town where it is still very much Irish and not so AMERICANIZED. This was also the place where we left the kids outside and went in to relish in the Irish tradition of downing or trying to down some Guinness beer.

There's no other experiance like that of walking into an Irish pub like the Temple Bar and ordering a Guinness stout. The lips start to water as you watch the bar tender pour the dark heavy stout from the tap into the glass. Your anticipation of ingesting the enticing product increases, said this girl NEVER!! The first taste brings a cool smoothness and an immediate taste of BARF to my mouth. LOL in all fairness to all stout drinkers.....I have never really been a beer girl but I do enjoy a nice cold Miller Lite every now and then. Yeah the whole Guinness stout experiance was not all I was hoping it would be.....guess I need to just stick to my fruity girlie drinks and my vino! :) However I guess the blahness of the stout didn't deter us from later on in the trip partaking in some more of it at the Guinness brewery. HA

The boys standing in the entrance of the Dublin Castle. Originally built seven centuries ago, nothing but the Record Tower and the Powder Tower are original. We didn't pay to go into the castle but just walked around the outside. Nothing extordinary or different than some of the other castles we have seen.

Next stop was St. Ann's Church which was built in the 18th century.

The next stop of the day was at the Leprechaun Museum....thinking oh how cool to learn about and see things that have to do with leprechauns. Yep folks not so much, the best part was the really big furniture that the kids could get on to make them feel small like leprechauns the rest of the museum was listening to a young girl talk about stuff that had NOTHING to do with leprechauns....would suggest you not waste your euro or time in this little joint.

Next we hit up a couple of malls had some lunch and then did some more shopping. Mason decided on the whim that he wanted to get his ear pierced and so we popped into a Claires. The boys were surprised to learn that I used to be a manager of a store called The Icing (sister store of Claires) where I pierced ears on a daily basis. So maybe that helped Mason not chicken out after seeing the gun and the earring. :) He was a champ and it looks good on him! :)

How many 9 year olds get to say they went on vacation and got their ear pierced in Dublin Ireland? That was fun for him and he has been taking great care of it....haven't had to remind him to clean it and make sure he is turning the earring. He is dying to be able to switch it out and wear different earrings. Time to call it a day and head for the bus stop. The bus stop that we always waited for our bus at was right next to Trinity College, which is the Republic's most prestigious university. It was founded in 1592 by Elizabeth I. In front of the main Enterance (pictured below) are statues of two of Trinity's most famous 18th century students. Play-wright Oliver Goldsmith and political writer Edmund Burke.

DAY 3: Today was an EARLY EARLY start.....we were going on a guided tour to the Cliffs of Moher with a few stops in between. Our morning started at 4:00 AM since we had to be at the pick up point for the bus tour at 6:50 AM. Who does that? Well we do of course....and not just once or twice but three times on this vacation. UGH!

The bus tours were nice because we didn't have to rent a car and they made several stops to see different things and have potty and food breaks. The kids did really well on the bus and we always got the back so we were all able to sit together. We were well on our way by 7:00 AM and our first major stop was at King John's Castle which is located on King's Island in the heart of medieval Limerick City. The castle over looks the river Shannon and was built between 1200 and 1210.

Our next stop was at the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs are one of Irelands top visitor attractions. I have to say God is glorious in his creations, the Cliffs are no exception as they are picturesque. My photos don't do it justice as they are breath taking in person. The Cliffs are 214 meters (702 ft) at the highest point and range for 8 kilometers over the Atlantic Ocean. The Cliffs were featured in the movies The Princess Bride (1987) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) and Leap Year (2010). Now I'll have to go rewatch those movies to see the part that features the Cliffs so I can say I have been there. When we first got to the Cliffs it was that annoying light rain, lots of fog and windy VERY windy. But within the first ten minutes of being there the rain stopped, the fog lifted and the winds calmed. So we were able to capture some great pictures.

After the Cliffs it was time to load up again, to drive to a little village town called Doolin village for some lunch. Cute little pub which had some delish fish and chips.....I could have eaten that all day long. The boys endulged in some Irish sausages and chips. Eating in the little Irish pubs away from all the hustle and bustle of city life was one of my favorite experiances in Ireland.

After being fed we loaded up again and started our treck around the karst region of the Burren with a stop to see and tour the 12th century Corcomroe Abbey. Another one of my favorite parts was driving through the countryside of Ireland. It was so spacious, green, and the exact picture of what comes to mind when you think of Ireland. I loved the houses that we passed out in the middle of  nowhere. How peaceful their lives must be without all the hustle and bustle of a chaotic life. On a side note the boys loved to play the color door game. Calling out different colors of doors because on any given street there was a rainbow of colored doors. Apparently when Queen Victoria died, there came a decree from London that all the doors in the realm be painted black in mourning. You can easily tell on any given street who is an Englishman and who is Irish. To this day, the Englishman's doors are all black and the Irish families have green, red, blue, pink, and anything but black.
The boys were so excited when the tour guide announced that we would be going by the beach. For sure the last two years living 45 minutes away from an Italian beach have spoiled them. They all let out a big sigh as we passed it and the tour guide informed them that only the DIE HARD surfers are crazy enough to swim in the ICE COLD waters!!! As we drove by sure enough the surfers had on their full surfing gear and were the only ones braving the chilly waters.
Construction on the abbey most likely began sometime between 1205 and 1210. Legend maintains that the building was commissioned by King Conor na Siudane Ua Briain, who died in 1267 and whose tomb niche is visible in the north wall. According to the legend, Ua Briain executed the five masons who completed the abbey to prevent them from constructing a rival masterpiece elsewhere.

What an amazing day touring the Southern part of Ireland. It was a long and exhausting much so that when we stopped for our last pit stop Luke fell to the ground and refused to move. He was tired and wanted to be in the hotel. Yeah I would have to agree I wasn't looking forward to the 3 hour bus ride we had ahead of us.
DAY 4: Today we slept in since we were all pooped from the day before. We got a late start and by the time we made our way downtown it was lunch time so we found our second place we like to visit everywhere we can. We like to compare and well McNuggets are McNuggets and nothing compares to McDonalds french fries. :)
After lunch we hopped on a double decker open top tour bus and we were able to see more of Dublin that we had already by foot. The nice thing was we could hop off at any of the stops and catch another bus later after seeing some of the sites.
Our first stop was at the Guinness brewery. We got to see all the stages of how the stout is brewed, and got to stop for a couple of taste tests. Originally leased in 1759 to Arthur Guinness and become the largest brewery in Ireland in 1838, and the largest in the world in 1914. Although it is no longer the largest in the world it still covers 64 acres.
After touring the brewery we went up to the top floor where they had an ovservation deck and where we could redeem our tickets for a free pint of Guinness and free pops for the kids. Needless to say Clark and I shared a pint and even that we had a hard time downing. LOL
After our little stout break it was time to hop back on the bus for a little more sight seeing.
I think we were able to hit all the major sights that were not our our beatin path. So it was time for dinner and to head back to the hotel for the night. We had another EARLY wake up call awaiting us for the morning. Plus both batteries on my camera were dead and the one on my phone was just about there. :(
DAY 5: Today is our last official day in Ireland :(! It was another 4 A.M. wake up call to hop on another bus tour at 6:50 A.M. this day we traveled to Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel and then our final destination being Cork City to see the Blarney Castle and to kiss the Blarney stone. So we were up and at em without being very up and at this point we were all running out of steam and running on very low fuel. We were all going to need a vacation from our vacation. So we made it on the bus and away we were. This bus tour was AAAwesome the tour guide kept the whole bus laughing and very much entertained the whole trip. It rained off and on throughout the whole day but luckily it seemed that everytime we disembarked the bus it would stop raining and then once we got back on the bus it would start raining again. The tour guide claimed it was his luck of the Irish. LOL Our first stop was in Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel.
According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 20 miles north of Cashel when St. Patrick banashed Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel.
The next stop was at the Blarney Castle....where we would all leave a little part of ourselves! The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms, and of course with the Stone of Eloquence AKA the Blarney Stone at the top.

According to Irish folklore, anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone receives the ability to speak with eloquence, or "The Gift of Gab." MMMM can't say that it worked for me any more than a few alcholic drinks make me open up. LOL Good thing is if I wasn't blessed with the gift of gab after kissing the stone neither did I catch some kind of nasty lip fungus!!! :()
To kiss the stone you had to first lay on the ground on your back and then scoot yourself all the way to the wall. Then you had to arch back and lean down as you are looking all the way to the ground through an opening just inches from your head. Then you hold onto the bars and pull your top half of your body down to kiss the stone.
Did you notice the ground below......YIKES!
and so then our grand adventure at the Blarney Castle and lip locking love came to an end. Time to load up on the bus and head to Cork city to have some dinner.

Our last Irish pub experiance and a YUMMY one at that.

We finished our dinner and then had time to go walk it off afterwards, before having to get on the bus to head back to Dublin.
On our way back to Dublin we stopped a quant little pub called Morrissey for a pit stop. They sold the old fashioned candy and we had to taste an authentic Irish coffee. OMG those have nothing on the good ol Italian cappuccinos. The Irish coffee was another one of those drinks that was hard to swallow. Oh well at least now I can say I have had a real one! :)

Well folks that is about the end of this vacation.....we headed back to Dublin flopped into our beds looking like death. Only to wake up at 3:00A.M. to catch our 6:00 A.M. flight back to Italy. Who made those reservations???? Obviously he should know I am NOT a morning person and at 3 O'clock I am like she-devil, the wicked witch of the East, and mommy dearest all rolled into one. Perhaps honey next time a later flight might be beneficial to all parties! :0 Oh yeah and I almost forgot the grand finale Gilleo moment. So asside from me NOT being a morning person we are all doing what we can to maintain sanity and get to the check in point at the airport a little after 4:00A.M. We get all checked in only to learn that our suitcases are 13 kilos over weight. OMG can we be over 13 kilos? Oh wait perhaps its all the souviners we we take those out and are shoving those into backpacks and putting the suitcases back onto the scale. Mind you Ryanair wanted 20 Euro per kilo we were over, so they wanted us to pay 260 Euro to bring our over weight items home. Calculate that into dollars are we are talking about close to $330.00, and I am pretty sure all of our souviners didn't cost that much total. Ok so after removing and making new homes for all our souvenirs we place our luggage back on the scales. NOPE still 8 kilos we remove all the kids blankets and shove those in their backpacks do a little rearranging among the two suitcases and then place them back on the scale. NO SIREEEE BOB still 4 kilos over. At this point I was getting ready to start throwing stuff in the trash. How could we be over weight when we had all the same stuff in the luggage on the way over. We had already removed all the extra stuff AND some!!!! UGH so Clark goes in search for a place to buy a duffel bag or something he can use as a carry on since he was the only one who didn't have one. So we are THOSE people who have to step out of line with our suitcases open and all of our belongings spread out for everyone to see. it!!  Please remember now I am NOT a morning person and this is not good to be happening to a NON morning individual with three sleep deprived children in an unknow airport. So finally after what seems like FOREVER Clark comes back with a see thru plastic trash bag! WHAT NO WAY SERIOUSLY???!!! So he starts shoving all our dirty laundry into it and that was basically all our clothing because my friends I don't go on vacation to do laundry! So he shoves all those smelly clothes into this SEE THRU bag and procedes to place our luggage back on the scale.....low and behold we are no longer over weight BUT OF COURSE we aren't over weight because we just checked in two EMPTY suitcases! Okay so maybe they weren't totally empty one had all our toiletries and one had our shoes in it. SORRY FOLKS BUT WTH??? Ryan air never ceases to amaze me. So here is the Gilleo family walking through the airport with stuffed to the max backpacks and a HUGE trash bag of dirty laundry. As we got to the gate Clark was going to buy a big bag to put the laundry in but a VERY nice store attendent brought over to us a nice see through store bag that could be sealed up and had handles on it. She helped us load up our dirty laundry into it and we were very very greatful for her assistance. We waited in line for what seemed an eternity to board the plane with our dirty laundry in hand. I was so happy when Clark shoved that bag into the over head bins and the filght attendent shut the door. UGH like I said in the beginning it wouldn't be a Gilleo vacation with out some kind of stumble along the way. For sure some great stories to be told to our grandchildren!! :) Just one of those moments that it's not funny in the moment but you can look back on and think its hilarious!

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~ 

P.S. Those of you that know me know I don't proof read my blogs and that I can't obviously post all the pictures on here so you can stay tuned to my Facebook page for all the photos from this trip!