Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Galway Day #5


Today we just shipped 2 of our suitcases to my parents so that we wouldn’t have 4 suitcases (now that we only have to deal with warm weather) and got on the internet all day to post the blog and do a little work. It’s our last day in Galway, but we are content with just chilling in the hotel bar. We went out for a little bit this morning to get breakfast and go to a couple of shops, but that’s about it. As you know, we aren’t gung-ho on sight seeing anymore.

Tomorrow we drive to Belfast to visit Paul’s sister Melanie’s friends, Sinead and Peter, who live in Belfast. It will be Halloween, so it should be a lot of fun. On Thursday we leave for Australia and don’t get there until Saturday (local time, so Friday your time) and I’m sure we’ll be exhausted. Also, we only have dial-up in our apartment there, so I’m not sure how often we’ll be able to post blogs. But we plan on taking lots of pictures while scuba diving (we got an under-water camera case), so we will post those when we can (we will find an internet café). We are super psyched to have an apartment. We can’t wait!!

Galway Day #4


Today we went on the Cliffs of Moher coach tour. On the back of one of the tour buses was an ad for Coors. And they actually have it on tap, along with 2 taps of Budweiser, at our hotel bar! I can’t believe it!

We had a really great driver who knew so much he talked almost the entire tour, which was fine because he had a pleasant voice. But he was also amusing because almost every time after he finished saying something, he would kind of trail off and mumble something. We have no idea what he was mumbling, but it was really funny.

The tour included the Cliffs of Moher, plus the Aillwee Cave and some castles and towns, all of which is located in an area called the Burren, which means rocky land and is 1% of the Irish landscape. The landscape was very beautiful, but as we drove into the hills, it got rockier and rockier, so that there were smaller grass pastures; although, grass does grow amongst the rocks and cattle and sheep will graze there too. The rock walls we have been seeing are used to divide up the land, all of which is privately owned, and they are complete dry rock walls. There is so concrete or other substance used to keep the rocks together. Amazing. We also noticed that the sheep were always colored on their backs, all the same color in one pasture. This is used to indicate the owner of the sheep.

What’s interesting about the land is that seaweed from the Atlantic Ocean (which is what the Burren borders) is used as a natural fertilizer for the soil, which really helps make the soil rich. Maybe that’s why all the grass is so bright green. However, some of the pastures are much richer than others, because some of them are more rocky and therefore can’t really be used for grazing. During the summer, they cut up the grass and roll it into huge plastic rolls to be used in the winter for hand feeding and as bedding for calves.

In some of these pictures, you will notice some hills. If you look closely, you can kind of see how there are jagged objects on top of the hills. These are burial grounds. They used to bury all their dead on top of the hills. They have excavated a lot of them, but there are still many more.

On the way to the Cliffs, we drove through the countryside to get to the Aillwee Cave and see some burial tombs. At one of the tombs we actually saw Dave, Adam, and Charlie, our Australian friends from Edinburgh, again! We saw them at the Guiness factory in Dublin and now they are on the same tour as us but with a different company. Too funny. On the way back from the Cliffs, we drove along the Atlantic coast, so you will see water pictures later in the group of pictures.

Here are the landscape pics I took:

On the way to the Aillwee Cave, we saw a castle that is actually still used for banquets today. It had a beautiful view of Galway Bay, the neighboring towns, and the distant hills.

The Aillwee Cave was really cool. It was actually discovered in 1940 but wasn’t excavated and opened to the public until 1970 because the Irish guy who discovered it didn’t think it was a big deal.

The rocks in the land have a lot of limestone in them, so when the water soaks into the ground and goes through the rocks, it picks up minerals and makes calcite, which is the shiny vanilla colored stuff that makes the stalactites and stalagmites.

This is the calcite hardened against a wall, so it didn’t make any stalactites.

This is the main area of the cave.

Somehow, the rocks formed in what looks like praying hands (near the top of the picture) :

These are straw stalactites, which are hollow in the middle. It takes 100 years for them to grow 1 cm. There is one stalactite that is 30 cm, which means it’s 3,000 years old!

The bigger stalactites and the stalagmites are created from stalactites that aren’t hollow (the middle of them are clogged with earth or minerals or something), so the calcite runs around the outside of the stalactite to increase its width and length and then drips down to the ground to create stalagmites.
Here’s a small stalagmite:

It’s hard to see, but in this picture, there is a stalagmite on the right-hand side that is 8,000 years old and a stalactite/stalagmite wall (which happens when the 2 keep growing and eventually meet) that is 11,000 years old.

Sometimes the water comes out in the cave in great force. It eventually gets absorbed by the earth and travels underground several miles to the Galway Bay, which is pretty far from the caves (they figured this out by coloring the water and then going to find out where the color came out).

We ended the tour at an area where you could keep going, but you would have to crawl to get through and eventually you would be crawling completely under water, so you would need an oxygen tank and would feel completely claustrophobic, and then you would get to an area that is large enough to stand in. Obviously, that isn’t somewhere they take tourists.

The Cliffs of Moher were beautiful. There was some large structure on top of one of the cliffs, but we don’t know what it was. It was insanely windy up there, as you will see from a couple of these pictures :) It was hard to capture the beauty and greatness of the cliffs in pictures, but we tried.

Galway Day #3


So today I am very hungover and Paul is a little too. I was doing so well at curbing the amount I drink so that I wouldn’t get drunk and therefore hungover, but lately I’ve regressed. I’ll have to work on that because I really hate feeling this way. However, we found a great place called Bagel Bar, which has awesome bagel sandwiches! From now on, this place will be our breakfast place. Love it!

So we ate breakfast and then went back to bed. Finally, around 4:30, I started feeling better. We decided to go to McDonald’s to get burgers. Now, normally, at home, we are not big fans of McDonald’s. We like Wendy’s and Burger King much better, but it was such a wonderful thing to have a piece of home here in Europe. We got Quarter Pounders and fries. It was awesome! We even went back for more later that night for dinner :)

And, of course, we didn’t do anything tonight. But we did order tickets for the Cliff of Moher coach tour for tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Galway Day #2


Today we didn’t do much. In the morning, we had to drop of the car. We bought a city map last night so that we could find our way around Galway. Unfortunately, there aren’t many street signs in the city, so the map didn’t really help us! Thankfully, we stopped to ask for directions and this nice man helped us find the car rental place. God is watching out for us!

The rest of the day, we just hung out at the hotel bar and read and relaxed. We walked around some, and ate of course, but we are kind of over trying to find food that is good but not super expensive. We can’t wait to have a kitchen in Australia so we can make simple food for much cheaper and more easily. Eating out gets old.

Tonight, we hung out in the room and played cards (War) for a while, and then we tried to go out to the bars, but it was so incredibly packed because of the holiday weekend. We went into the least packed bar, and a band was playing, but they were playing American songs, not traditional Irish songs, and it was so loud and crowded. So we didn’t stay long.

We ended up going back to the hotel bar since it wasn’t very crowded, and we met a couple named Paul and Ingrid. Paul is from the east coast of Ireland (I never got the name of the town) and Ingrid is from Lithuania. They met in Ireland several years ago and have had a long distance relationship ever since, only seeing each other twice a year! Crazy! They were both very nice, so the night ended well, but apparently we got pretty drunk somehow. I don’t remember drinking that much.

Galway Day #1


Today we drove from Dublin to Galway, and it was quite an adventure. At first, things were going smoothly. Paul was getting used to driving on the left and having the steering wheel on the right side of the car (weird) and we were on a 4 lane main road that didn’t have too many cars on it. But then we were diverted to a 2 lane road and soon it became completely backed up. Most likely because this weekend is a “bank holiday” weekend (like a government holiday, so it’s a 3 day weekend), so a lot of people were on the road. We sat in it for 45 minutes and finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, so we took a side road and decided to go around all the major towns on back roads.

That’s when the interesting part started. Let me tell you how freaking narrow their roads are. I swear, some parts of the roads can’t even fit 2 cars, let alone buses and other large vehicles! I don’t know if these pictures convey the narrowness of these roads, but I had to take pictures anyway.

It was somewhat scary, especially when we were going by parked cars on the left side (where I was sitting) and high trees/bushes that were right next to the road (no shoulder). I kept lifting my leg and moving it to the right and yipping whenever Paul got close. Apparently, this was so entertaining and amusing for him that he started doing it on purpose sometimes. How nice of him :) but it was kind of funny.

But besides the scariness of the roads, it was a great drive. The Irish landscape is as beautiful as we had imagined. It is the land of sheep and cattle. In fact, we heard on the news that Irish agriculture actually emits like 10% of Ireland ozone gas emissions. They emit methane, which is far more harmful than carbon dioxide, so the more we eat meat and raise cattle for us to eat, the more emissions are put into the atmosphere. Pretty crazy. Most of the emissions come from live cattle too, not as much from the manure, and it’s mostly from the cows burping! Too funny.

Also, the grass is so bright green here, like the pretty green you see on high def tv commercials. We do not have this green of grass in the states. And all the stone walls are so cool too. I just love looking at this land. It’s more beautiful than any other land we’ve seen.

Cute houses:

Also, the weather changes so quickly here. It was rainy and cloudy when we started driving and by the time we got near Galway, it was sunny and beautiful:

On the way, we went through a couple of small towns, one of which was Ferbane. We were hungry and needed a beer (from the stress of driving those small roads). Apparently, Guiness is good for you. Good to know!

Since we got stuck in traffic for so long and had to take back roads, which made our journey even longer, we decided that we couldn’t drive to the Cliffs of Moher and other places on the coast. Instead, we are going to take a bus so that we don’t have to worry about driving the narrow coastline roads.

Once we got into Galway, we didn’t have a detailed map, so we just kind of made our way to the water, since we knew our hotel was on the water. This is Galway Bay, which is fed from the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic is much more beautiful and green over here than on the east coast of the U.S. Shocker.

Our hotel is great. It’s quiet and very nice, and we actually have American shows on the tv! Finally! Really, that’s a savior for us. And here’s the view from our room.

Our hotel is at the end of Quay (pronounced Key) Street, which is the main pedestrian street where a lot of restaurants and shops are, so we are right near everything. Tonight we didn’t do much, but each at our hotel bar and chill in our room.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dublin Day #4


Today, we got up quite refreshed since we got so much sleep and rest yesterday. We ate breakfast and then went down to the bar to get on the internet, which is what we’ll be doing most of the day since we bought a 24 hour internet card. However, I feel that even though the city doesn’t really appeal to us, I need to get out and see a few more of the major sights since we are here and I don’t want to regret not seeing them.

We went to lunch around 3:00, back to Elephant and Castle. Paul got the hot wings, which were really awesome, and I got the sandwich I got yesterday (a sautéed shrimp sandwich with bacon, coriander cream, and roasted red peppers – YUM!). After lunch, I went out to explore the city a little more while Paul went back to the hotel room.

So I walked down Grafton Street, which is the main shopping street. Lots of shops and restaurants, McDonalds and Burger King of course, but nothing too exciting.

There was this one guy “playing” this weird “instrument”. You decide for yourself what it is.

And there was a little band playing too.

And what is Captain America doing here?

At the end of Grafton Street is where St Stephens Green starts, which is a big park. Here is the big arch entrance.

And right outside of the park is a shopping mall; although it doesn’t look much like one. And below the mall was a TGI Fridays!

Here is the park. It was so pretty and peaceful. It’s nice to see all this nature since we’ve been in cities so much.


Then I walked to the castle, which turned out not to be very cool looking, so I didn’t go inside. It’s being used as a government facility now, so it’s not very exciting. The cathedral was the best looking, but still not great. And on the way, I saw Bud Light neon signs outside of a bar! Ugh, don’t these people know that Bud is crap and their local beer is SOOOO good?!?!?

This is in the castle's courtyard. Plain, isn't it?

This is the cathedral. Much prettier, but a very low WOW factor. I give it a 4.

And here is City Hall. This city just reminds me of Washington D.C. so it’s really not much different from home. We are hoping that Galway is much more authentic Irish.

Tonight we are going to take it easy, but we are going to try to watch the VT vs. BC game on ESPN 360! I guess we’ll be up late. GO HOKIES!!!