Friday, March 16, 2012

The Land 'O Ire: Part IV

Ok, it's about time to wrap up all this Ireland stuff, but we have just a few more highlights to share....

Putting a close to the Burren, we made our way north along the coast until we hit Galway. Galway's a huge university town and packed with tons of cafes, restaurants, pubs, and music venues, and despite it being the third largest city in the country, we thankfully found it not overwhelmed with chain establishments and kitch tourist shops. The downtown felt relatively small and hometown with a good, lively vibe. Being day 6 of traveling and touring, we weren't feeling quite as lively; aimlessly wandering and doing not too much sounded a-okay to both of us. After a lunch of clam chowder, brown bread, and an irish coffee, Adam I meandered the streets and found ourselves at a bookshop buying some reads about Celtic legends and folklore. Yeah, that guy in Doolin certainly pricked our ears; we were fascinated with the history of all this stuff. Holing up in, first, a cafe, then a pub, we lost ourselves within our ghost stories and mythology, coffee, then guinness (Cider for me, of course ; ) It was great to have some solid chill time, but then you're instantly snapped out of this dreamy reading daze when the pub starts playing Garth Brooks. Wha?!

On the River Walk-view to Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral

The following day we hopped back in the car to check out the ever-so talked about Connemerra National Park just a few hours out of town. Instantly, the coastal landscape turned into rocky scruff that lead up to Connemerra's vast mountain peaks. Seriously, we had probably seen every possible landscape on this trip! Of course, being down-season, most things were closed (even the visitor's center?!), but we were able to stop for a few hours at the acclaimed Kylemore Abbey. We were expecting more monastic ruins, but this, in fact, was actually some rich guy's fairytale retreat, that after years of abandonment and disrepair, was finally taken over by the nuns, turned into a school, and restored for tours. It was said that this rich fella was on honeymoon with his wife sometime back in the 1800s, and they simply fell in love with the area. They bought the property, tore down the original lodge, then built and elaborate mansion and garden. After the wife's death, he then had a mini cathedral built on site in her memory. Absolutely gorgeous (yes, this all seemed like a perfect place for a wedding...but probably a bit outa the question ; )

 View across lake

View from the Abbey to the lake

Boating seemed to be a favorite pastime here. 
Numerous docks in ruins were found scattered about the lake (left)

A small slice of the gardens...JUST beginning to bloom (right)

 One of only a few of the numerous surviving greenhouses 
(these are the places that all the ladies would come hang out in 
during the winter for some sun)

 Garden Shed

 Miniature Cathedral

The following day we made our way back to Dublin hitting up ONE last tourist site, the ruins at Clonmacnoise. Now this stuff was SUPER old (we're talking back to the 6th Century) with a bit more religious history compared to our fairytale abbey. And crazy enough, the sun stayed out just long enough for us to wander the grounds photograph the place, but as we headed for the car and decided we'd had enough of site seeing for one trip, it started to rain, and we hopped back in the car. It still amazes me that the total time from coast to coast takes about the same time as a trip from Chicago to Champaign. 

 Clonmacnoise Ruins

Structures dating back to the 10th Century
Landscape on our drive back

Our last night in Dublin turned out to be a pleasantly chill evening as we met up with one of Adam's old co-workers who recently moved to Dublin for a project he's engineering. We were sad to hear that we were missing his wife's arrival by a mere couple days as it would have been nice to have her in the conversation about moving abroad, the comparison of our lives, and what the future held for us all. Guess it was just comforting to know that not too far off, there's another couple out there just like us experiencing this crazy transition. 

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