Ireland Live Blog (From America (and not live))

Back when my live blog was still live, Anne and I had just survived a terrifying clockwise journey around the Ring of Kerry and sang classic Irish ballads (James Taylor, Oasis, etc.) in the Dingle Pub.  Although we’ve been home for ages now, I feel compelled to complete the live blog so future readers don’t get concerned that we perished from an apple pucker incident.  

Before I get to the additional details of our travel, it’s important to note a major shift that occurred somewhere around Dingle.  A small discovery led to a huge change in how we saw the country and what became important.  I discovered the “miniaturize” feature on our camera and from that point forward, my sole purpose in life became finding things that would look awesome as miniatures.  I no longer cared about beautiful scenery, sleepy pubs, or romantic hideaways.  Unless they would look good smaller, and then I cared a lot.

In case you’re not familiar with the epicness that is miniaturization (and you’re probably not), here is a picture of a group of golfers on the 18th hole of the Old Head golf course:

And here is the same picture but with the golfers “miniaturized”:

Looking at these pictures now, on a big computer screen, I realize that the difference isn’t all that substantial.  I’m not even completely certain that I correctly labeled the miniature picture.  But on that little screen on the back of the camera, I would laugh and laugh and laugh every time I found something to make miniature.  I’m putting words into her mouth here, but it’s fair to say that Anne hated me by this point of the trip.

I should also mention that those photos were taken after Anne arrived at the golf course.  It looked beautiful and pleasant when she showed up.

When I was playing golf, it looked like this:

But back to the trip.

After leaving Dingle (!), Anne and I headed to Galway via the Conor Pass. The Conor Pass is Ireland’s highest mountain pass.  In Irish, “highest” actually means “treacherous, narrow, curvy, unpassable, and with sheep-towing trucks speeding towards you.”:

Thankfully, I remained quite calm throughout:

In case you were wondering, that slick ride we were driving was a VW Golf:

Yeah, that’s right.  I miniaturized it.

We barely survived Conor Pass and arrived at the most scenic overlook in Ireland.  Everyone we talked to said that the view would be our the reward for surviving the treacherous driving conditions.

Here’s how it looked when we got there:

From there, it was on to Cliffs of Moher, one of the new seven wonders of the world (currently ranked 24 of 28 for the title).  The cliffs are one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions.  Most likely achieving this status by having a website labeling themselves as one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions.

Words cannot describe a world wonder, but if forced to try, I would say that they looked like large cliffs with tourists taking photos.  If describing them to my mom, I would probably call them “breathtaking” or exhale loudly in a show of exuberance.  That would make her happy.

If you have the Internet, you don’t really need to go to the Cliffs because they look exactly like they do in the pictures.

For comparison’s sake, here’s my photo:

Right after taking this picture, my focus shifted from miniaturizing things to making the same joke (admittedly a terrible terrible joke) ovher and ovher for the rest of the day.  Mostly, I joked about how bohering the cliffs of Moher were and how we should pick up some souvenirs at one of the stohers.  If you lowher your standards for a moment, I think you’ll appreciate the humor in it.  Anne particularly disliked the jokes with the punch line, “I hardly even moher.”  As in:

Anne:  Do you want to go to the Cliffs of Moher today?
Rob:  Mo Her?  I hardly even Moher.

Well, that one doesn’t work exactly.  But you get the gist.

A little known fact about the Cliffs – if you pay 3 Euro moher than the regular entry fee, you can head up to the O’Brien viewing center, which the guidebook said provided the best view of the Cliffs.  We knew it would be a good view because only Americans were savvy enough to pay to see it.

Once again, we were rewarded for our reliance on the guidebook:

There are some additional details about our trip that I’d like to share.  But you’ll just have to wait because I JUST discovered a new feature on the camera.

A few random items that are bothering me

  1. The let rule in tennis – Why is it a redo if the ball clips the net and ends up going in, but a fault if it tips the net and lands out?  In both cases, the ball clips the net.  If the purpose of the rule is that the clipping of the net creates unpredictability, then wouldn’t a serve ending up in or out be a perfect example of that unpredictability?  In case that didn’t make any sense, let’s just all agree to agree on this.
  2. Throwing it around the horn – When a guy strikes out in baseball, the players throw the ball around the horn as follows:  Catcher to Third to Second to Short to Third.  Two times for the third baseman, none times for the first baseman.  There’s only one explanation: Racism.  
  3. The Entourage Finale – My only gripe was that when Lloyd pulled up to Ari’s driveway, the director should have done a better job of focusing the camera on the car’s Chevy logo.  It wasn’t quite centered in the screen, which seemed inconsistent with the show’s internal framework.  On the positive side, I was happy to see that Vince and Sofia finally got together. 
  4. Pints – Upon returning from Ireland, I learned that a pint does not equal a pint.  Why didn’t anyone tell me that a pint in Ireland is 20oz (or as commonly called, “not a pint”) as compared to America’s 16oz pint (aka, “a pint”).  I am considering launching my own guidebook company that includes only important information.  Can’t we all agree that everyone skips over the “history” and “architecture” sections anyway? 

Ireland blog: dingle

our next stop was dingle. Stop laughing. No seriously, stop laughing. You can’t, right? Dingle. LOL.

Ok, now that we have that out of our system, dingle (!) is a small town on a peninsula in southwest Ireland.

Just like everywhere else in Ireland, it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. By this point in the trip, I have to admit that I am getting a little tired of the natural beauty. I could really use the convenience of a Duane Reade right about now. For example, as we drove into dingle with the ocean hugging the left side of the road we could see from afar a small cluster of people riding horseback on the sandy beach and galloping towards the sunset. I mean, c’mon, right? Am I in a Kevin Costner movie?

We arrived in the early evening after our long drive through the ring of Kerry, so headed out for dinner and then a couple of pints (half pints) at the dingle pub. The dingle pub was everything one might hope for in an Irish pub. A nice relaxing atmosphere. Good live music. A bartender who is probably a fifth generation owner of the establishment. It was all very quaint. The musician was playing old Irish tunes and everyone sang along. I loved it unconditionally. And then, the singer said, “who is from Scotland?” silence. “anyone from the UK?” Crickets. “how about the USA?”. The bar erupted. We were essentially in the times square of dingle. But I didn’t care. I still loved it.

That experience got me thinking about tourism generally. I always want to seek out the things that are off the beaten path and more local in flavor. But maybe that’s not what I really want. Maybe we just want to experience things the way we expect them to be. I always get frustrated by tourists that come to new York and spend too much time in times square. I feel like they miss so much of what makes the city great. But if youre not from new York, times square probably feels epic. Why would you want to find a quaint little bistro in soho?

With that in mind, anne and I were headed off to Galway. I hear there is a great hard rock cafe there.

Ireland blog: the ring of kerry

After Anne won Ireland with her hurling knowledge, we headed towards our next destination, the Dingle Peninsula. But on the way, a number of people and guidebooks, and internets had pointed us to the ring of Kerry as a must see destination while on our trip. Before I get to that, a small confession: Anne and I are not the most studious travelers. We usually buy a guidebook and use it to plan out our trip, but we like to make decisions on the go and explore cities and areas without following the books verbatim. This means, that we often visit somewhere and then afterwards read the guidebook to see if we missed anything. As a result, our vacations involve a decent period of self-loathing when we discover amazing things to do two days after we leave one destination and head to another. Hold on to that thought while (whilst) I describe the ring of Kerry.

About three miles before arriving in Kerry county, anne and I stopped for lunch to figure out what exactly it is. Turns out, it is a road that goes through a number of different towns in county Kerry Ireland. The drive puts Ireland’s natural beauty on display and winds through mountains, oceans, sheep, cows, towns, and merchandise shops. It is epically beautiful. The stunning thing about Ireland is the contrast between the lush green meadows and the searing blue ocean. The land remains largely undeveloped and natural, so the drives from one point to another are as much a destination as they are a journey.

It’s hard to explain how terrifying being the driver on the ring of Kerry can be, but I will try. start by picturing Lombard street in San Francisco. Now, shrink it slightly so that maybe one car and one bicycle can safely fit side by side. Next, picture that on one side of the road is a small rock wall built in 310 BC that provides the only protection from the ocean and on the other side of the road is oncoming traffic, a giant mountain, and a flock of sheep. Oh, and don’t forget that everyone is still driving on the opposite side of the road. Essentially, that is the ring of Kerry. The most harrowing fact is that the speed limit on the road is 100 km/hr. I’m no mathematician, but based on my calculation of how fast the Irish people were driving as they came towards me, it is just shy of 90mph. Those assholes also love tailgating and passing whenever they have an opportunity.

Midway through our drive, just as the skies darkened, the rain started pouring down, and the windows fogged up from the steady stream of sweat dripping down my face, disaster struck. The tour buses started to come back from their day long trip, which prompted the following exchange:

Rob: Jesus this is terrifying.
Anne: I know, right?
Rob: it sort of feels like we are going the wrong direction.
Anne: [nervous laugh]
Rob: are we going the wrong way???????????
Anne: I’m just reading the guidebook now and it says, “it is strongly recommended that you drive the ring of Kerry in an anti-clockwise direction.”

Whoops. As another tour bus zipped by – and by zipped by, I do mean that it forced me to essentially veer the car off a cliff into the ocean – the car became silent, mostly because I was navigating the hairpin turns, anne was in a constant state of terror, and we were both vowing to do a better job establishing a travel plan in the future.

On the brightside, we didn’t follow Anne’s initial pre guidebook plan: “we should bike the ring of Kerry.”