Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Rock of Cashel and the west

After our lovely time in Kilkenny we began our journey west. We had a stop planned along the way, The Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is an ancient site, seated high atop a limestone outcrop that overlooks the Plains of Tipperary. When nearing it, we could see the site which reminded us of Hogwarts!

We parked in the parking lot below, luckily finding a spot. We followed fellow tourists walking up, up, up the hill. Mike had a work phone call to deal with right when we got close to the entrance. It was kind of funny seeing him dealing with such a modern issue on a cell phone next to such an ancient site! The kids walked around and explored until he was done and then we went in to purchase our tickets. We just started exploring when suddenly a strong windy and pelting rain hit. I guess being so high up with nothing to block it around you you will feel the weather change! We hustled inside and watched a short video. Once the video finished we headed outside and were met with blue skies and sun!

Here's a quick summary of The Rock of Cashel: The collection of medieval buildings includes the Round Tower, Hall of Vicors Choral, Romanesque Cathedral, and a Castle. The site was the seat of the ancient Kings of Munster as well as the site where St. Patrick baptized King Aenghus in the 5th century. There is also a graveyard in which you can still be buried to this day. The caveat: Your ancestors must have (somehow!) put your name on a list by the 1930s. Within the next generation the graveyard will finally be considered full.

This was one of our favorite sites we visited in Ireland. The ancient history was captivating!

Hanging around the ancient Rock of Cashel

Family pic in front of the ancient Rock of Cashel

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Kilkenny, Ireland

After our time in Dublin we headed out west to the countryside. Our first stop was Kilkenny. I chose Kilkenny because it was a good stop, distance-wise, between Dublin and the far west where we would continue on the next day. It also received rave reviews and even something called the "Tidy Town Award"!

Our experience this day was an example of how no matter how much one can plan not everything will go as planned. If you roll with a sudden change of plans, your experience may be better than you could have planned!

On our drive out to Kilkenny I received a call on my cell phone from the hotel we had reservations at in Kilkenny. We had two rooms at a hotel in the town that had a parking area for our car and was easy walking distance to the castle I wanted to visit while there. The hotel was calling to say that they overbooked by two rooms and our two rooms were no longer available! I couldn't quite understand all that they were telling me over the phone due to the poor connection and their accents so I told them we would be there shortly and could discuss in person.

We parked our vehicle in the back of the hotel headed in to talk to them. They were very nice and apologetic and explained the situation. They said they took it upon themselves to book us at a nearby place called the Lyrath Estate. I knew nothing about it but decided we didn't have many options. They said it cost more to stay there but they would cover the difference. I found that to be a very nice gesture and figured if it cost more it couldn't be too bad. They allowed us to leave our car parked there while we explored the town.

The lovely town of Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle was a neat castle to visit. It's a self-guided tour, at your own pace. The grounds were incredible and the castle itself interesting to explore. After the castle we headed to some shops. After a few hours we headed back to our car and drove out to the Lyrath Estate.

Kilkenny Castle and grounds

While heading out to the Lyrath Estate we drove through beautiful Irish countryside, the epitome of what the one imagines Ireland to look like - misty and ever so green. We soon arrived and followed the long, winding driveway which flowed over hilly land, ending at the incredible estate with gorgeous flowers and rows of hedges.

What an absolute surprise this place was! A beautiful old estate had been expanded to include a beautiful hotel. We had two rooms - one large suite with an amazing view of the countryside and another smaller room. We could not have expected a better place!

Exterior of the incredible Lyrath Estate near Kilkenny

After unloading our belongings in our room we decided to go for a walk on a walking path on the property of the estate. It started drizzling a tiny bit but was so pretty we didn't mind! Sheep were grazing in the distance and our surroundings were impossibly green. After a while we headed back and decided to eat dinner. I had an epiphany! What if we left the kids in the room (Skylar is 16 after all) with a movie on Netflix and room service...then Mike and I could go down and enjoy an adult-only dinner (we never get this at home!) worked like a charm! The kids loved their room service meal and movie and Mike and I dined downstairs. This is now our new favorite to do while on vacation!

On our walk on the grounds of the Lyrath Estate

After our meal we headed back up to the room. We all got situated and headed to bed. The next morning after we were ready we headed down to the breakfast which was fantastic. The dining room overlooked the gorgeous rose garden and the food was incredible. We hated to stay goodbye to this amazing place but it was time to head west. Next stop - The Rock of Cashel!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dublin, Ireland

In July of 2017 our family ventured across the pond to Ireland! We had an itinerary planned that would take us in a loop starting and ending in Dublin, while seeing some of the sights the west of the country had to offer as well.

We started our trip in Dublin, having arrived mid-morning. We collected our luggage and got some breakfast, relaxing for a bit at the airport. We couldn't check into our Airbnb until about 3:00 so we had some time to kill. After a while, we called our host and he said we could get in a little early. We hired a taxi and headed into the heart of Dublin where our Airbnb was located.

Once we checked in and got somewhat settled, we really wanted to nap of course but I knew we had to push through! Sometimes we don't feel affected by jet lag but this time we were. But getting out into the fresh air and sun was what we needed to set our clocks onto Irish time.

We bought tickets for a double decker bus tour, which doubled as our transportation for the next two days. We always stay on the loop first and then get off where we want the second time, this way we see all the sites on the loop and can hear a complete and congruent tour. During the second loop we got off at the Guinness Storehouse. Why not just jump right into Irish culture?!

I had read a little bit about the Guinness Storehouse so I knew somewhat what to expect. Most said it's not a must-see, but is enjoyable. One important thing to note is that it is not a factory that you are touring, rather that is off-site and not tour-able. The interior of the building is very aesthetic, with exposed brick, ample signs explaining what you are seeing, and it's organized well. We ended our self-guided tour with our free sample at the top of the building which provides 360 degree views of Dublin. I appreciated the description of what you were looking at etched into the windows. Our "baby pint" was delicious as were the kids' sodas, and the view was awesome! It was SO, crowded, however, so we couldn't find a place to sit and had to enjoy our drinks standing up. Once we finished, we took the bus back to our Airbnb and called it a day!

Sights from the Guiness Storehouse

The next day, we had timed tickets for the visiting the Book of Kells at the Trinity Library. The Book of Kells is a beautifully decorated 9th Century manuscript of the four Gospels. It survived raids throughout the early middle ages so to have this Book in the condition it is where we can see it today is a treasure for sure. When we arrived we bypassed a huge line simply because we booked our tickets ahead of time! Once in there, it's a self-guided tour through the exhibits. Once again, it was very crowded and hard to get to the front to see the Book. The kids weren't very interested but I appreciated the history of such a national treasure.

After visiting the exhibit we walked through the Long Hall in the Trinity Library. It was gorgeous! Skylar, being the book-lover she is, felt like she was a kid in a candy store - except a teen in a cool, old library!

The Long Hall at Trinity Library

We walked around the campus a little bit, which is so old and neat to visit. We stopped at the cafe for a bit for some coffee, water, and a treat. It was cool to walk the paths that such famous folks such as Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde did many years before.
On the Trinity Library Campus

We headed back to the apartment for some lunch and rest before visiting the Kilmainham Gaol. The jail is famous due to housing the people responsible for the Easter Rising, a very important part of Irish History. The guided tour was very well-done, very informative and intriguing, as was walking through the old jail.

Kilmainham Gaol

We enjoyed walking the streets of Dublin, it's a really cool town, yet busy, hustling, and bustling. We stopped into a pub for a drink and possible dinner but the kids weren't able to eat there so we just enjoyed some Irish Music, a drink, and some sports on the TV. We ended up eating at a little pizza place and it was delicious! This was the end of our time in Dublin, we were off to the countryside the next day!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Spring Break 2017 - Atlantis, Bahamas

Spring Break 2017 started out at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. We then moved on to Florida where we met up with my sister and her family for some final days of fun at Disney World!

Our travel day to the Bahamas started early. We drove to Nashville and flew from there to Charlotte and had a very quick connection on to Nassau. Once we landed in Nassau we were on the runway for almost an hour just waiting for a gate to open to park the plane. That was tough! Once we were in the airport we then had a very long immigration line to deal with. Unfortunately, the taxi I had reserved ahead of time had been waiting for a very long time. I had planned to add the option for a small additional fee for him to stop at a grocery store on the way to the resort. However, by the time we were finally out of the airport all grocery stores had closed.

When we got to the Atlantis Resort we were amazed at how massive and beautiful it was! The sun set really early so by the time we got to our room it was starting to get dark, so no time for water fun. We did, however, walk through Marina Village to find a dinner spot. We started at The Burger Shack, as that is usually a go-to type of food while on vacation with the kids' food allergies. They were completely inept at dealing with food allergies and didn't even know what kind of oil they used. We also waited a substantial amount of time to just be served water. The service here was slow and the wait staff seemed uninterested in their customers so we were actually happy to leave.

We found Bimini Road in Marina Village and they were able to accommodate the allergies. They had a good system in place which made me feel better! We were pleased with the ambiance of this restaurant and had a delicious dinner here. When we finished our dinner and headed outside, it was completely dark, except for the lights on the yachts in the harbor and the decorative lights around Marina Village. Live music was going strong and we had a great time walking about. We finally headed to the room to get some sleep so we could get good rest before our fun-filled days ahead!

Atlantis Resort at night

During our stay here we got breakfast to go from the ala carte cafe and took it outside to eat every morning. From there we would find lounge chairs and start our water fun for the day. The kids loved trying all the water rides, including the iconic Leap of Faith. At one point we were all on the not-so-lazy river and my mom accidentally went another way. She ended up going down several water slides that she had no intention of doing! A couple hours passed and she finally found us - that is one con to staying at such a huge, sprawling resort -it's hard to find your party if you get lost!

Fun in Atlantis

The beach was fun for a bit, but quite rough, we all got tossed around quite a bit and decided it was too much for us. We spent most of our time in the pools, The Current, and water slides. Our favorite dinner was at the upscale Virgil's BBQ, which overlooked the water.

Beach fun and our favorite restaurant at Atlantis

Overall, Atlantis was fun for a few days. Our kids were at the perfect ages to enjoy all the rides. I wish that the beach had been more enjoyable but you can't control Mother Nature, that's for sure!

Kids at the Atlantis Resort, Bahamas