Islands, Castles & Cliffs - Galway, Ireland

Overlooking the island of Inisheer

Overlooking the island of Inisheer

I haven't been blogging lately because we've been on holiday in England and Ireland for two weeks! We just returned Saturday evening and are back in the full swing of parenting, work, and life in Kansas City.

Andrew and I have been planning this trip since January - our first one outside the US since moving back here in 2014. It was also our first long trip away from Declan, as he stayed behind with my parents. Fortunately, he doesn't suffer from extreme separation anxiety, and I think he had almost more fun than we did, being spoiled by his extended family for two whole weeks.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing photos and stories of our trip. And there are a lot: we stayed in six different homes, visited two countries and seven cities, and saw countless sights during our trip. AirBNB was our mainstay for accommodations during our trip, and I'll share more about that, too. And I'll also talk about some ways to survive a two-week separation from your toddler (it's easier than you think).

We started our trip by flying into Dublin, Ireland at 5:30am (!!!). Dublin is about the size of Kansas City, but that's where the similarities end. The history, both recent and distant, was apparent to us as we made our way from the airport to the city center via express bus (6 euros/per person). We spent a few hours wandering the narrow streets, trying to stay awake til our coffee date with a couple from Kansas City. Being able to meet up with friends always makes a trip more fun, right? We also found time to visit Trinity College.

On the grounds of Trinity College

On the grounds of Trinity College

Trinity College is a famous university in Dublin that is home to the famous Book of Kells. Being there early in the morning gave me an opportunity to wander through the exhibits and stick my nose up to the glass, behind which laid the 1,200-year-old illuminated Latin text of the four Gospel books from the New Testament.

Later, we boarded a bus for the 2.5-hour ride to the other side of Ireland. Our destination was Galway, which we'd heard was the 'most Irish of Irish cities'. Somehow, the sun decided to grant its full blazing favor on our two days there, and we experienced vibrant of Irish natural beauty and culture.

We spent our first evening walking down to the harbor and along the beach. Droves of people came out in the sunshine, sprawling on the grass next to the river where it emptied into the ocean. We grabbed a few savory pies and joined them, then enjoyed a pint of local brew in a traditional pub where musicians tuned their fiddles and played Irish music into the night. Our AirBNB room (with Dara - definitely recommended!) was in the Latin Quarter downtown, and we could still hear people singing as we drifted to sleep.

At the harbor in Galway

At the harbor in Galway

A great local pub for traditional Irish music

A great local pub for traditional Irish music

Because of our limited time in Galway, we decided to join an all-day tour with the Galway Tour Company out to the Cliffs of Moher and Inisheer Island. It ended up being one of the best investments of the trip. For 45 euros per person, they drove us out through the Burren countryside to board a ferry out to Inisheer Island. Inisheer is one of the three Aran Islands off the coast of west Ireland, and one of the few places where Irish remains the first language.

We rented bicycles for ten euros each and spent a few hours cycling all over the island - visiting the shipwreck from the 1960's, gazing up at the 'new' lighthouse (from the 1800's), and climbing up to the castle ruins from the 15th century.

Shipwreck from the 1960's

Shipwreck from the 1960's

Cycling everywhere...

Cycling everywhere...

Checking out the 15th-century Fort on the ISland of Inisheer

Checking out the 15th-century Fort on the ISland of Inisheer

Can you believe this water?!

Can you believe this water?!

Back on the ferry, we sailed past the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher, which I recognized as the 'Cliffs of Insanity' from the movie The Princess Bride. Seeing them from below only increased our healthy apprehension of their heights once we reached the top. Quite seriously, I was petrified of being so close to a 700-foot-drop to my death. And it's not irrational either, considering there is no guardrail! Our tour guide told us that in 2015, 8 people had fallen to their deaths accidentally, and six of them had been holding selfie sticks - most likely, they stepped back a little too far to get the perfect shot and just slipped off the cliff.

Approaching the Cliffs of Moher

Approaching the Cliffs of Moher

Although it was a long, ten-hour day, it was a great way to kick off our trip and to get over jet lag quickly. The next day, we jumped on a bus back to Dublin and then on a plane to England - our next destination...